2. Have a food gift strategy. You don’t have to immediately eat all the cookies, breads, and chocolates that friends and neighbors deliver during the holiday season. Many goodies freeze well, so you can enjoy them over the next few months rather than the next few days. If possible, divide the treats into individual portions so that you only defrost as many servings as you need.
3. Don’t skip breakfast. It’s a common practice to skip early meals on a big day of eating, fasting in advance of the dinner ahead. But this approach has a high probability of backfiring; people often end up overeating later. Instead, opt for a sensible morning meal—say, oatmeal, yogurt, and a piece of fruit—and if your celebration is in the evening, eat a light lunch midday. The last thing you want is to show up to dinner starving.
4. Start with a drink … of water, that is. Your brain sometimes has trouble distinguishing thirst from hunger, so at parties and holiday dinners, sip a glass of water before you have a cocktail or eat anything. And if you do drink alcohol, stick to one or two, sipping a glass of seltzer between each one. That will keep you hydrated and slow your intake. Or try a spritzer: Mix half red or white wine and half seltzer or club soda in a glass. Add a slice of lime and you have a festive drink with half the calories and alcohol.
5. Be smart about appetizers. At cocktail parties, stick to three or so items (or six if the appetizers are doubling as dinner) to keep calories in check. Skip the fried foods and go for items like shrimp cocktail, vegetable-stuffed mushrooms, or hummus and veggies. Before holiday meals, go easy on the munchies. Do you really need to eat 5 ounces of cheese and then sit down to dinner? If you’re the host, you have more control over what’s being served, so try putting out something small and healthy—such as nuts, olives, or a crudités platter—for people to nibble on with drinks.