10 Holiday Eating Tips

A healthy diet can be difficult to maintain at any time of year, but once the holiday season rolls around, the task becomes ten times harder. It all begins at Thanksgiving dinner with freshly carved turkey, mashed potatoes with sour cream, corn-bread stuffing, and of course, the all-American apple pie.

Not surprisingly, the average Thanksgiving dinner contains more than 2,000 calories, according to the American Dietetic Association. What's more, these indulgent eating patterns usually escalate throughout December, with holiday parties, Christmas cookies, and all of the decadent treats associated with the season.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to feel good and stay healthy while enjoying the festivities. Just follow these tips from the American Heart Association, and you're sure to celebrate New Year's without the extra pounds or the guilt:

Don't Go to Dinner Hungry

This is the biggest mistake you can make, thinking that by skipping breakfast or lunch, you can gorge yourself once you sit down for dinner. It's when we come to a meal hungry that we tend to overeat. Instead, eat a light breakfast and satisfying lunch before sitting down to the holiday meal.

Check Out Your Options

Take time to survey the dinner table or buffet and decide which foods you can't live without. Feel free to take healthy portions of the foods you choose, but don't waste calories on items you can enjoy any day of the year, such as dinner rolls.

Drink Responsibly

Don't think of an alcoholic beverage as an accompaniment to the meal; instead, think of it as part of the meal. Unfortunately, many drinks equal empty calories. One cup of alcoholic eggnog, for example, packs about 350 calories--more than the average slice of pumpkin pie.

Don't Let Your Eyes Be Your Guide

Even though it's the holidays, it's important to eat reasonable portions. For example, fill your plate with a four-ounce slice of skinless, light meat turkey; half a cup of veggies; and half a cup of the starch of your choice.

Eat Slowly

Thanksgiving dinner is not a race. Eat slowly, taking the time to savor your food and your company. Most importantly, stop eating when your stomach tells you you're full.

Avoid Seconds

If you've had one plate, you've had enough. As difficult as it may be, try to restrain yourself from going back for seconds. Chances are, the food will still be in the fridge tomorrow.

Clear the Table ASAP

Don't let the temptation linger. Clear the table as soon as you're done eating, and move the family away from the kitchen.

Exercise After the Meal

This is a great time to get moving. Take your dog for a walk around the block, or join your kids in a quick game of flag football. Physical activity is essential to maintaining any healthy diet, especially during the holidays.

Experiment With Substitutions

If you're the honored cook of the big meal, try substituting high-fat, high-calorie ingredients with healthier options. Replace sour cream with low-fat plain yogurt, and try sprinkling hot veggies with fresh herbs instead of butter--your guests are sure to love it.

Maintain Perspective

Overeating at one meal won't make or break your diet. If you overindulge at a holiday meal, just try to put it behind you, and return to your usual eating plan the following day.