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Column: Handling holiday parties

Holidays bring family and friends together to celebrate traditions and spread good cheer. They also bring a lot of opportunities for socializing, eating and drinking. Even the most disciplined people struggle with temptation during the holiday season. To navigate the party landmines while keeping your healthy eating intact, you need a strategy. Having a plan in place will help you handle night after night of eating and drinking.

To help you survive the seasonal parties without packing on the pounds check out some of the following recommendations:

• Trim back the trimmings. Go all out and deck the halls with boughs of holly, glitter and lights, but when it come to holiday food, accessorize with care. To shave calories, go easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravy, butter and whipped cream. Trim calories wherever you can so you leave the party feeling satisfied, but not stuffed.

• Wear snug clothes and keep one hand busy. When you wear snug-fitting attire, chances are you'll be too busy holding in your gut to overeat. While you stand around looking great in your holiday finery, hold a calorie-free drink in your dominant hand so it won't be so easy to grab food.

• Chew gum. If you don't want to eat or drink, pop a piece of sugarless gum into your mouth.

• Be a food snob. If you don't love it, don't eat it. Scan the table for foods you truly treasure and skip the everyday dishes that are available all year long. Don't think it's your responsibility to sample everything on the table. Go ahead and indulge in your personal holiday favorites, then find a seat and, slowly and mindfully savor every bite.

• No skipping meals. Always eat normally on the day of a party. Don't save up calories as you tend to overeat everything in sight once you get there. Start with a good breakfast and eat a light snack before the party.

• Check it out. When you arrive at the party, grab a sparkling water, and wait at least 30 minutes before eating. This gives you time to relax, get comfortable in your surroundings and survey your food choices before diving in.

• Add fun and games. Take the focus off food and get people more active during the party. Think of different activities you can do for fun. How about a dance-off? Make dancing after eating a new holiday tradition for a great form of fun and recreation.

• Limit alcohol. Holiday drinks are loaded with calories. They go down easy and add up quickly. Plus drinking a lot can make you more likely to snack without thinking about it.

Holiday parties are much more than food and drinks. They're a time to delight in the traditions of the season and enjoy the company of family and friends. If you keep the focus on the spirit of the season — you'll most likely get through the holidays without gaining a pound. If you do splurge, don't beat yourself up, just get back to normal eating and exercising, and try to do a better job at the next party! Have a happy, healthy holiday!