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It’s easy to get swept away in the holiday season. The feasts and parties that mark it can tax the arteries and strain the waistline.

You don’t need to deprive yourself, eat boring foods or take your treats with a side order of guilt.

  • Budget wisely
    Don’t eat everything at feasts and parties. Be choosy and spend calories judiciously on the foods that you love.
  • Take 10 before taking seconds
    It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You may realise that you are full or want only a small portion of seconds.
  • Distance helps the heart stay healthy
    Don’t stand next to the food table. This makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the chips.
  • Don’t go out with an empty tummy
    Before setting out, eat something so you don’t arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread.
  • Drink to your health
    A glass of wine, beer and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water in between drinks.
  • Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach
    Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.
  • Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes
    Dancing is a great way to work off some holiday calories. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.
  • Make room for veggies
    At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes – unless they’re slathered with creamy sauces or butter.
  • Be buffet savvy
    At a buffet, walk around the food table before putting anything on your plate. By checking out all your options, you might be less inclined to pile on items one after another.
  • Don’t shop hungry
    Eat before you go shopping so the scent of treats doesn’t tempt you to gobble it.
  • Cook from (and for) the heart
    To show family and friends that you reallycare about them, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream and other ingredients rich in saturated fats and cholesterol. Prepare turkey or fish instead of red meat.
  • Pay attention to what really matters
    Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge or overeat occasionally.

It’s hard enough to exercise the rest of the year but add holidays to the mix and many of us find exercise becomes less of a priority as to-do lists grow longer and longer. The last thing you want is more stress and, for many of us, trying to keep to our usual workout program does just that.

At the same time, staying active in some way will give you energy, reduce stress and tension and, of course, help mitigate some of the extra calories you may be eating.

Get Prepared

  • Plan a 10-minute routine you could do right in your bedroom. For example, you could choose 10 exercises and do each for 1 minute (squats, lunges, push-ups, jumping jacks).
  • Carry resistance bands. They travel well, and you can use them for quick strength exercises whenever you catch a few minutes.
  • If you have a laptop, carry along a workout DVD or try streaming workouts online.
  • Wear your running or walking shoes as much as you can. You may find a 20-minute window when people are napping or before dinner for a quick walk or run.

Use Every Opportunity

  • Walk as much as possible. Take extra laps at the mall, use the stairs, volunteer to walk the dog.
  • If you’re hanging out with kids, set up a game of football, tag or hide and seek.
  • Offer to help with the housework.
  • If everybody’s sitting around watching football, get on the floor for some sit-ups or push-ups.
  • If you don’t have equipment, pick up some full water bottles or soup cans for quick lateral raises or overhead presses.

The most important thing is to be realistic and go easy on yourself. You aren’t always in charge of your schedule during the holidays, so you can only do your best. Remind yourself that you can get back to your routine when you’re back home.

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