The holidays are everyone’s favorite time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. But it’s also often a time to indulge a little bit at cocktail parties, workplace gatherings and big family dinners.

While it might not seem like a big deal if you add a few pounds during the holidays—you’ll no doubt be able to shed them when you kick your New Year’s Resolution into gear—it can be more difficult than you think to shed the weight you gain during the holidays.

“While it’s not five or 10 pounds like many people think, the one or two pounds you gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can end up hanging around long into the spring and summer,” said Jila Kaberi-Otarod, M.D., CNSC, a physician at the Geisinger Center for Nutrition and Weight Management. “It’s best to try to maintain your current weight through the holiday season.”

Here are six ways to make sure you maintain your own weight without packing on pounds during the holidays.

1. Stay active

Shopping, family gatherings and work commitments seem to fill up your calendar, but it’s important to keep moving. To stave off weight gain during this busy season, add workout time to your daily calendar so you get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week.

You can also stay more active during the holidays by parking further from the entrance at stores as you run errands, or take walking breaks during the workday.

2. Don’t skimp on the vegetables

It’s easy to indulge in rich foods that you might only have a few times a year. But before you load up on mashed potatoes, pasta or less-than healthy cheese dips and appetizers, make sure you’ve got your veggie servings in for the day.

The USDA recommends that adult men eat three cups of vegetables a day and women eat two and a half cups of vegetables. To put that in more digestible terms, one cup of vegetables is about 12 baby carrots, a large pepper or one large baked sweet potato.

3. Don’t go to a party hungry

One way to make sure you eat healthy and don’t overindulge is to eat a healthy meal or snack before attending those treat-filled get-togethers.

“Try eating a small meal with vegetables, whole grains and lean meats before you go to a party to curb the temptation to eat cookies, cheese, crackers and other goodies,” said Dr. Kaberi-Otarod. “And when you’re there, listen to your body. If you are full, don’t keep eating.”

4. Start with a strategy

When you arrive at a party, whether you’ve had a healthy, pre-party snack or not, there’s still plenty of room to make mistakes. Avoid them by creating a strategy. Use a small plate—seeing a full small plate can help you regulate how much you eat. If there are vegetables, make sure you include some of them, but forgo the sauces. And limit the sweets to just one or two.

5. Watch what you drink

Limiting what you drink at holiday parties is not only safer for you, it’s also much healthier. Not all cocktails are created equal, so if you’re going to indulge in a drink or two, make smart choices.

“Steer clear of the eggnog at holiday parties; instead, go for a light beer or a glass of wine,” said Dr. Kaberi-Otarod. “Then, move to water the rest of the night—a calorie-free alternative that will help you stay hydrated.”

6. Keep clear of the kitchen


The purpose of holiday parties is to gather with friends and loved ones, so make it a social event. Rather than standing over the food table or congregating in the kitchen, spend time in other living areas catching up with friends. You may be surprised at how the temptation disappears—out of sight, out of mind.