Are visions of sugarplums dancing in your head yet this holiday season? If you’ve managed to keep the sugarplums in your head and out of your mouth, you’re doing well. For many, the siren call of holiday goodies coupled with the tantalizingly easy access to holiday treats at parties and events is too much to bear—we find ourselves looking in the mirror on Jan. 1 with a few post-holiday pounds around the middle.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and planning is key. “There is a major holiday almost every month of the year. When you're serious about reaching your goals, you'll make a way regardless of the time of year; when you're not, you'll make excuses,” says Charles D'Angelo, a weight-loss coach and author of Think and Grow Thin. “An important key that's helped all of my clients reach their goals is replacing spontaneity with strategy. Knowing what to do and doing what they know consistently is key. Temptation is weakened and your willpower is strengthened with a plan that keeps you feeling full and energized.”

Scheduling small, frequent meals throughout the day at about three-hour intervals, starting with a healthy breakfast, is one of the suggestions D’Angelo offers for creating a successful weight-loss strategy. He also urges people to maintain a regular exercise schedule.

Sherri Hoyt, a registered dietitian with Missouri Baptist Medical Center, agrees with D’Angelo and adds, “Exercise helps us reduce stress, and the holidays can certainly be very stressful. Think of it as your time out or your recess—it’s your special time.”

Hoyt reminds clients that holiday beverages can be just as fattening as cookies. “I suggest that people eat their calories instead of drinking them,” she says. A five-ounce glass of red wine is about 120 calories, so a single indulgence won’t wreck your diet. A chocolate martini, however, can exceed 450 calories, as much as a small meal. Hoyt is a proponent of sparkling water and tea as drinks to keep in hand without packing on the pounds.

Another of Hoyt’s suggestions involves bringing healthy items to holiday potlucks. “Instead of another high-calorie dish, bring a big garden salad for the buffet table,” she says. “And remember, croutons, cheese and bacon don’t grow in the garden.” Filling your party plate with vegetables and lean protein, like cooked shrimp, will keep calories down while filling you up.

Hoyt’s final words of wisdom involve the true meaning of the season. “Holiday gatherings are about celebrating with family and friends,” she says. “Focus on the people, not the food. You can’t talk with people when you’re spending all your time eating.”

Kringle Krunch Cookies 

Crunchy and healthy 87-calorie cookies for your holiday sweet tooth (courtesy of Missouri Baptist Medical Center) 

6 T butter, softened

3/4 c brown sugar

1/3 c granulated sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg white

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 1/2 c old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 c dried cranberries 

1/2 c white chocolate morsels

3/4 - 1 c shelled pistachios

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, beat butter, sugars and vanilla with mixer until creamy. Beat in egg and egg white until blended. In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating on low speed until just blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by tablespoons onto lined baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are just golden; do not over-bake. Cool on racks. Makes four dozen cookies. 

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