With all the freshly baked cookies, cakes and pies, eggnog, apple cider, and other delectable foods and drinks surrounding you during the holiday season it’s probably not the best time to start a structured weight loss regimen. But, there’s no reason why you have to pack on extra pounds. 

Managing your weight is all about maintaining a healthy balance between how many calories go in and out of your body. One of the most basic strategies for doing this is to view your daily calorie intake as a personal budget that you get to spend however you choose each day.

Related Article: Estimating Your Metabolic Rate and Daily Calorie Needs

Bearing this in mind, you can choose whether or not to go over budget during holiday festivities and events.

If you continually choose to indulge, know there will be a debt to pay next year (weight gain and, ultimately, more weight to lose). After all, accumulating 3,500 extra calories will result in your gaining about a pound of fat. Given that the average holiday dinner houses 3,000-4,000 calories, this is not at all difficult to do.

Related Article: Understanding the Process of Weight Management

That being said, if you’d rather err on the side of weight management, here are five healthy choices you can make in order to keep your calorie budget intact and prevent unwanted weight gain during this holiday season.

Familiarize yourself with serving sizes.

Controlling the amount of calories going in doesn’t require excessive calorie counting. Just being mindful of the foods and beverages you take in day-to-day can make all the difference. Monitoring your portion sizes (what’s on your plate) is one of the easiest ways to do this.

To monitor your portions, start by familiarizing yourself with serving sizes. Consider the following servings sizes and visual equivalents (what they look like):

  • Turkey or Meat = 3 ounces (a deck of cards)
  • Cooked Vegetables or Pasta = 1/2 cup (an ice cream scoop)
  • Corn Muffin or Dinner Roll = 1-2 ounces (a plum or large egg)
  • Homemade Gravy = 2 tablespoons (a ping-pong ball)
  • Cake or Pie = 1/8 of 8″ round cake or 1/8 of 9″ diameter pie

Now, whenever you’re in the presence of a whole lot of food, go for smaller portion sizes so you can eat a little bit of everything. Another trick is to load at least half of your plate with any leafy greens or other non-starchy vegetables available in order to bulk up on fiber. This’ll help increase the overall feeling of fullness.

If you must include holiday favorites like pasta, mashed potatoes, and candied yams on your plate, know that one serving of each is 1/2 of a cup yielding 200-300 calories per serving.

Related Article: Portion Size Essentials for Weight Management

Implement cardio workouts.

In order to increase the number of calories going out of your body during the holidays it’s important to implement some type of cardio workout on most days of the week. If you view the holiday season as a time of rest, choose light-to-moderate cardio exercises you can enjoy.

Take an aerobics style dance class or go dancing at a nightclub. This way you won’t feel like you’re actually working out. And, by doing so you can burn as much as 400 calories per hour. This allows for a slice of cake (or two) in your daily calorie budget.

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Add resistance training to the mix.

By adding a few weekly resistance training sessions to your routine, you can greatly increase the amount of calories that go out of your body. Believe it or not, doing so can elevate your metabolic rate (the rate at your body naturally burns calories) for up to 12 hours, resulting in two favorable outcomes:

  • You’ll burn more calories at rest and during any activities performed within this timeframe.
  • Any calories you consume during this time will be burned at a faster rate.

There’s a variety of equipment you can use to train this way including dumbbells, kettlebells, machines, rubber tubing and even your own body weight. You can also use this time to try out a Pilates or weight lifting class at your local gym. This’ll allow for a couple of cookies in your daily calorie budget.

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Consume alcohol in moderation.

You can greatly minimize the amount of daily calories that go in by consuming alcohol in moderation. When you do choose to consume it, opt for light beers, low-proof wines or low-calorie mixed drinks (rum or vodka with sparkling water instead of soda or juice).

There are about 70 calories in an ounce of hard liquor. By mixing a 3-ounce serving of hard liquor with just four ounces of juice or soda, you’re looking at about 270 calories in one small drink. One or more can put a real hurting on your daily calorie budget.

Related Article: Simple Ways to Enjoy Alcohol Without Gaining Weight

Incorporate spontaneous physical activity.

In addition to exercise, incorporate more spontaneous physical activities on a daily basis in order to maximize the amount of calories going out. You can do this by simply using the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator during shopping, or parking your car far away from your destination in order to get some extra steps in.

Accumulating just five minutes of walking up stairs burns about 115 calories while walking for a total of 30 minutes burns about 145 calories. Doing so may allow you to add an extra piece of pie to your daily calorie budget.

Related Article: Five Interesting Ways to Exercise Without Exercising

And there you have it!

Five practical strategies for preventing weight gain during the holiday season. While you might not lose a significant amount of weight, you’ll certainly break-even, which’ll negate the need to play catch up in the new year.