The holidays are fast approaching, which means we’ll be celebrating with family, friends, and neighbors from Thanksgiving through the New Year. While this can be a wonderful time for many people, it can also be challenging for those of us who are either losing or maintaining our weight. All of the healthy habits we have acquired over the past year can be seriously put to the test during the holiday season. Family and friends are definitely a blessing, but all of the celebrations during the holiday season that include copious amounts of rich, high-calorie foods can also contribute to slip-ups. I would like to share with your some of my best strategies for keeping your healthy habits over the holidays.

Focus on the people, not the cuisine.

There are probably many people you will see during the holidays that you may not be able to spend time with the rest of the year. Put your focus on enjoying the conversation instead of the food in the room. Position yourself as far away from the buffet table as possible and talk to the people who make your holidays special. I’ve even like to spend time with the kids outside playing, especially if it’s a mild day. The fresh air will do wonders for your mind, body, and soul. If you’re having a formal sit down dinner, be sure to fill your plate with vegetables and protein and, again, focus on the conversation. When it comes time for dessert offer to clean up in the kitchen, or help with serving. Make your friends and family your focus, and you’ll feel great when it’s over!

Bring a healthy dish to share.

If you are going to someone else’s house for the holidays, it can be tough to control the food. I always offer to bring a vegetable dish, and my hosts are always happy to accept. By bringing something to the table that will keep you on track during mealtime you will feel more confident and won’t have to worry as much about what is being served. If you are not able to bring a dish be sure to focus on the protein and vegetables and take small amounts of things like stuffing and mashed potatoes if you must have them.

Plan for activity.

In between all of the hustle and bustle, the visiting and celebrations, it’s important that you maintain some level of activity to keep you sane and on track. It can be as simple as a quick walk around the block, a power walk carrying bags through the shopping mall, or even popping in a work out DVD or using an exercise App. As busy as we all are during this time of a year, keep in mind that a few minutes of activity a day can really make a difference.

Use healthy alternatives for some of your favorite holiday meals.

If you are the one whose house is the gathering place for the holidays, it can make it easier to stay on track. Whenever I am hosting, I always serve my guests the healthy alternatives to some of our favorite unhealthy holiday dishes. I’ve never once had a complaint, as a matter of fact, people rave about how delicious my holiday foods are. With the right substitutions, you can give your guests the gift of good health, with plenty of flavor. Scroll down for the recipe of one of my favorites, remade into a healthy, delicious holiday favorite!

Don’t go to the festivities hungry.

It’s the same concept of never grocery shop on an empty stomach. If you go to a dinner or holiday celebration with your belly growling, it’s highly likely you’ll make some food decisions that you may regret later. Instead, have a healthy snack before you leave and be sure to include some protein and a healthy fat to keep you fuller longer. My favorite go-to before a party is a healthy smoothie with an all-natural plant-based protein powder. Here are some great smoothie recipes that were used for my recent Smoothie Challenge. This guide is chock full of tips and techniques for making smoothies and has over 20 recipes that my clients and I enjoy every day! !

Live by the WEC Rule – Worth Every Calorie

If you are going to plan to indulge a little bit this holiday season, make it Worth Every Calorie! Things you could have on a daily basis that are readily available don’t do it for me. I like to have the things that only come around once a year. My rule for Thanksgiving Dinner – have what you want but only fill your plate once. This has been an effective way I have been able to enjoy some things I rarely have, but without the guilt and weight gain that can go along with it!

Think about the 80/20 method and apply it.

Healthy isn’t about being perfect, and we all know how hard it is to be perfect this time of year.   I truly believe that if you are making healthy choices 80 percent of the time, and indulging only 20 percent, you are striking a good balance between your health goals and living in the real world. It’s really about how well you nourish yourself on a regular basis that really matters, not what you do occasionally. So, if you do decide to indulge a little this holiday season, stick with the 80/20 method and you will go into the new year looking and feeling better than ever!

If you are nervous about the upcoming holiday season and need some help with staying on track, maintaining your current weight, or continuing your loss through the new year, be sure to contact me for a FREE healthy strategy session. I can help you execute some of these, and other, strategies for keeping your healthy habits any time of year! Here is a recipe for Apple Butternut Squash Soup. It’s a great alternative to some of the heavier cream soups that may be served during your holiday celebrations.

Apple Butternut Squash Soup

Makes 4 servings

2 apples, chopped

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (the canned variety, full fat)

1 bunch parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add apples, squash, and onion to a large mixing bowl. Coat the apples, squash, and onion well with melted coconut oil. Lay the mixture on a shallow baking pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes. The mixture should be soft and brown around the edges.

Next, add the roasted mixture to a large soup pot. Add grated ginger, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Cook for about 10 minutes until hot. Use an immersion blender or a high-speed blender to make a smooth soup. Serve with fresh parsley.