The holidays are one of my favorite times of year, with all of the food, drink, friends…did I mention the food? You are probably smack in the middle of a busy holiday social season and perhaps wondering how you will make it through all the merrymaking without feeling like you were run over by an eggnog truck come December 28th.

Mouthwatering holiday dishes, rich desserts and those oh-so-heavenly cocktails and drinks are calling your name. And you should enjoy them! Indulgence once in a while is okay; it just shouldn’t be a daily occurence, no matter the season. Here’s the trouble: what should be a worry free 3-4 days of feasting can become an eight week, all out bacchanalia! It’s just too hard on your body…and those buttons will start to wheeze under the strain. Next comes the inevitable dietary planning for a January devoid of foodie fun that simply ends up in frustration. So let’s take the reigns before we fall too far down the candy-coated rabbit hole.

The surprising place to start to ensure you eat well this month? Keep on exercising. Trust me, I know it’s hard. Even though it’s cold outside and all you want to do is relax, try to fit in some physical activity. Make it a social thing! Bundle up and go for a power walk or jog to view the holiday lights. Finish with a steaming cup of chai tea for holiday flavours, minus the guilt. Take the kiddos tobogganing; trudging up those hills is great cardio. Resist the urge to hibernate and eat anything you want; exercise will build confidence and keep you feeling good so that you will be more mindful of food choices. Remember, this elusive balance thing is the key to keeping your energy levels intact this month.

Need some help with having your Christmas cake…and eating it too? My best advice is to be choosy. Don’t eat every discount store chocolate or big box cake that comes your way. Instead, enjoy those treats that really make your holiday special and carry on with healthy eating the rest of the time. Read on so you can enjoy all the deliciousness that is the winter holiday season without compromising your health:

Try to make most of your food from scratch. It doesn’t have to be fancy. If you are on your way to a party, just throw together a quick spinach salad with pre washed greens, lots of chickpeas and some cherry tomatoes that will fill your belly before you have to face the buffet. Processed foods and pre-made sauces and dishes are very convenient but they are often guilty of hiding lots of sugar, sodium, and fat to junk up your pipes – and they contribute to an appetite for more junk. Know what you are putting in your food. This goes for holiday treats too. Have a favourite healthy cookie recipe at the ready and freeze them for a healthy way to give into your cravings all month long.

Go Green and Red: Make sure you keep up with your veggies – you can never have enough. Veggies will fill you up so you can eat just a bit of your holiday faves. If meat is the star of your holiday feasts, balance it off with a ton of vegetarian sides (ideas listed below!). There are some great seasonal vegetables that can make any dish amazing: think mushrooms, asparagus, celeriac and squash!

Be Naturally Sweet: Serve fruit for dessert whenever you can to cut out refined sugar. Apples, pomegranates, and persimmons are excellent choices. Alternatively, make your desserts as fruit based as possible. Baking and poaching with spices brings out amazing textures and flavours in fruit that feel indulgent.

Fancy Fats: Make healthy substitutes wherever possible. Swap olive, avocado or coconut oils for other fats in your recipes. Applesauce or mashed bananas are great alternatives for butter in desserts. Try buttermilk, plain and/or Greek yogurt to make heavy and rich dishes lighter.

Powerful Protein: For your protein dishes opt for more anti-inflammatory options such as fish, turkey and chicken.

Basting a turkey? Lighten up a bit and try stock, milk, or bourbon. Ooh…bourbon.

Find True Flavour: When flavoring your dishes, avoid overloading them with butter and salt. Instead, use some fresh or dried herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano.

Be a Savvy Sipper: Say no to most mixed alcoholic drinks, which often hide unbelievable amounts of sugar. A simple glass of wine or beer is a much better option. If you want to spice up your drink, try mulled wine. And as always, drink responsibly!

For other festive holiday drinks that aren’t packed with sugar, check out this stellar hot apple cider recipe.

Surviving the Holiday Dinner Party: 

Don’t go to a holiday party hungry. Make sure you have a nice and healthy snack beforehand to avoid overeating.

Take a look at your dinner plate. Cover half of it with veggies and then the other half with whatever you like. Eat the veggies first.

Eat slowly and enjoy some conversation to help you cut your appetite.

Whatever you do, DON’T socialize next to the buffet. It can’t end well 🙂

Here are some delicious recipe suggestions from across the web!

Vegan gravy

Creamy white bean and vegetable mash (Vegan)

Christmas pilaf

Quinoa pie with butternut squash

The BEST lentil loaf (vegan)

Poached pears and red wine syrup

Spiced Pumpkin Tart with Oat Crust

To a deliciously indulgent (and healthy!) holiday season…