Updated: December 08, 2016

By Tina Haupert

For me, it's easy to treat Thanksgiving as the kickoff to a six-week food fest. Who can resist all the delicious fare? There's Grandma's buttery mashed potatoes and Mom's sweet pumpkin pie—I just can't resist.

If you're anything like me, too much splurging on Thanksgiving sets off a domino effect for the rest of the holiday season. But it's hard to feel festive on New Year's Eve when all my clothes are tight!

Since slimming down to my Feel Great Weight a few years ago, I've learned how to navigate the holidays from Thanksgiving through the New Year without slipping back into my heavier days.

Offer to bring a dish
If I'm not sure I will find healthy choices at a holiday gathering, I offer to bring a tasty, healthy dish that I love and that other people will too. Usually, my offer makes menu planning easier for the host and I can count on having a nutritious option available at the get-together.

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Treat myself to the good stuff
Party fare like chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, and store-bought cookies are foods that I can find year-round. Instead of filling up on those foods I treat myself to the once-a-year goodies, like my mother-in-law's sweet potato casserole or a couple beautifully decorated holiday cookies.

Start with the veggies
Holiday meals typically include many vegetable dishes. As long as they're not swimming in butter or topped with marshmallows, I load my plate with veggies first. Once my plate is full with vegetables, I add other options. Basically, I eat the healthiest foods first then nibble on the treats.

Walk before you shop
Before I visit the mall to do my holiday shopping, I grab my sneakers for an early-morning walk. Many malls open their doors a couple hours before the stores, so I can get in my exercise for the day before I shop until I drop!

Think small
The holidays are a time for me to indulge a little bit, but I don't want to overdo it either. I try to make small changes in my everyday life to "even out" the extra calories I might consume. For instance, I'll skip the cheese on my sandwich or spend my lunch break walking around the neighborhood so I don't have to turn down my favorite holiday treats.

Go nuts
At holiday get-togethers, it's easy for me to graze on baked goods, candy, and chips, but instead I grab a handful of mixed nuts and snack on them slowly. Nuts are loaded with healthy fats and are very satisfying.

Create a calendar
With the holiday season comes family visits, travel, get-togethers, and other time-devourers that always seem to get in the way of my daily workouts. Instead of skipping them I make a schedule for the next few months that includes all my obligations, then I pencil in my workouts just like any other appointment. That way, I'm not tempted to skip them.