We get it: Gaining weight during the holidays is all too easy. Between all those heavier meals, freely available cookies, and a higher intake of booze at the full slate of holiday parties, counting calories can get downright scary.
But there’s no point setting a resolution to lose 10 pounds if you’re just gonna gain 15 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Instead, stay trim through the holidays by following these easy tips from nutritionist Mike Roussell, Ph.D.
1. Schedule exercise, and stick to it.
During the holidays, exercise tends to be the first activity you drop from a busy schedule, Roussell says. To avoid this, schedule your exercise just like you would any normal meeting or event. “If it’s in your calendar, you know when and how you will get in that exercise,” Roussell says. Stay active with outdoor winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, or even sledding (yeah, it takes work to climb back up the hill). Or if you’re not a fan of snow, sign up for some ass-kicking boot camp sessions at your gym.
2. Be wary of alcohol
“Alcohol puts the brakes on fat loss,” says Roussell. Mixed drinks—especially those loaded with carbs and sugars—will quickly add pounds that took weeks to burn at the gym. We know what you’re thinking: Easier said than done. Since drinking (typically) occurs in a social setting, it can feel weird to not order a drink. So here’s what you do: Get your first one, sip slowly, and then switch to a club soda with lime on your second order—no one will know it’s vodka-free. The added bonus to drinking slowly: You won’t risk getting tipsy and reaching for fatty foods or overeating, both of which you’ll likely feel bad about the next morning.
3. Weigh yourself daily.
People who weigh themselves daily have better control over maintaining or losing weight. “A lot of people step on the scale on January 1st and are mortified,” says Roussell. “By weighing yourself everyday, you stay accountable and recognize what’s going on.” Even though you’ll fluctuate, you’ll notice patterns of increase and be able to rein in your eating habits before they get out of control. You’ll also get encouraged by weight loss, and that will keep you hammering toward your goal even when those cold mornings make a trip to the gym seem like hell.
4. Choose the right party foods.
Most party foods are refined grains or simple carbohydrates, says Roussell. Instead of reaching for snack mix, choose low-cal veggies or protein-packed shrimp cocktails. Eat a salad or broth-based soup before attending a holiday event so you can feel full (and avoid diving into the buffet head first). At a sit-down dinner, fill up on meat and roasted veggies first, before the carb-heavy mashed potatoes and dinner rolls. Can’t overcome your sweet tooth? Opt for pumpkin pie, which tends to be lower in calories than desserts like cheesecake.
5. Stock up on nutritional back-up snacks.
Keep healthy snacks in your car or at your office so you don’t feel hungry. Look for protein-rich foods like unsalted almonds or beef jerky for easy, grab-and-go options. Also, load your shelves with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t find produce in supermarkets. Go for kale, which is rich with antioxidants that help detox your body throughout the holidays, and apples and oranges with Vitamin C, which can help boost your immune system.