By Tina Haupert
December 25, 2012

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The holidays are filled with festive parties that include large quantities of delicious food. Who doesn't love this time of year? The holidays are a time for me to "eat, drink, and be merry," but in moderation. I don't deny myself my favorite foods, so I make sure to keep my portion sizes in check. Here are some tips and tricks that help to keep my eating habits balanced and my portions in control.

Balance my calories
I know weight gain doesn't happen overnight, so if I plan to indulge at weekend parties, I balance those extra calories by eating light and doing a little more exercise the days before. This doesn't mean skipping meals or spending hours at the gym! I simply make small changes here and there, like nixing the cheese from my sandwich or running an extra mile. My little changes really add up, so my splurges don't show up on the scale.

Survey the scene
When I arrive at a holiday event, I take a moment to survey the scene instead of making a beeline for the food or bar. I take a minute to soak in the atmosphere, preview the spread, and check out the cocktail list before having anything to eat or drink. I know if I jump at the first plate of food I see, I’m only setting myself up for disaster. Taking a moment to figure out what I really want helps me make healthier choices for myself.

Be selective
When it comes to higher-calorie party food, I choose wisely and select the foods I want most. I love dessert and have a major sweet tooth, so I'll typically skip appetizers, especially if they're the same old-same old chips and dip or cheese and crackers, and wait for the dessert spread at the end of the night. The key is not to waste my calories on foods I don't love, so I can enjoy what I really want.

Use a plate
At parties, my go-to trick for keeping calories in check is preparing a small plate of food instead of snacking all night. The plate provides me with a visual aid of how much I am eating, so I don't lose track of small bites here and there. Plus, I can always go back for a refill if I'm still hungry.

Fill up with nutrients
When I'm feeling especially snacky at a party, I don't ignore my urges, but instead I fill up on foods with the most nutrients, such as raw veggies, nuts, or olives. If I focus on the nutrients instead of calories, it helps me avoid the not-so-healthy treats.

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake.