Remembering to cut your dad’s scotch with water. Wearing that hideous sweater your aunt gave you. Using your black-belt-like conversational skills to supplant any political talk with football. By the time the feast finally arrives—in all its fatty, wine-soaked glory—the last thing you want to do is sweat over calories.
But here’s the grim reality: Roughly 75% of all the weight we gain over the course of the entire year we gain in November, December, and January, a 2013 study in the European Journal of Clinical Medicine found. “One naughty day of eating won’t derail your health,” says Miranda Hammer, R.D., a registered dietitian based in New York City. “The problem is, the big meal commonly begins a cycle of terrible behavior that can lead to a week, a month, a season of poor eating.”
So why not set yourself on a better path from the get-go by, for example, boiling, not roasting, your ham to reduce fat? Opting for butter-free yet still-flavorful Brussels sprouts? Or replacing those belly-bloating mashed potatoes with a great-tasting cauliflower mix? (No one will even notice—trust us, it’s an editor’s tried-and-true recipe!)
With these gut-friendly twists on classic holiday plates—including three big centerpiece proteins and several sides—you won’t have to surrender flavor to stay fit. And heads up: They make delicious leftovers, too.