A handful of party strategies can allow you to enjoy delicious holiday foods without packing on the pounds.

You know the scenario: Go to a few holiday parties and end up 5 to 7 pounds heavier by New Year’s Day. But with these strategies in hand, you can savor the season and still win the battle of the bulge.

Healthy baking substitutes

Flour: Whole wheat flour, ground oats or almond meal
Sugar: Honey or stevia
Butter and oil: Applesauce, mashed banana or coconut oil
Eggs: Applesauce or flax meal
Chocolate Chips: Carob chips or dark chocolate chunks
Sour Cream: Greek yogurt

Prep work

It’s all about being prepared. Prepare prior to the party, at the event, and during the day after.

Make the earlier part of the day extra healthy. Have a high-fiber breakfast, a vegetable-filled lunch, exercise in the afternoon and then enjoy your evening holiday event.

Eat a healthy snack before the party to ease your hunger.  At 100 calories or less, these snacks can fill you up without filling you out:
Fiber-filled fruit: Apple, Asian pear, 1/4 cup dried fruit (apricots, plums)
Protein-rich portions: String cheese, 15 almonds, meat/cheese roll (2-oz. deli meat rolled with 1 slice low-fat cheese), 3/4 cup edamame in the shell, 4-oz. Greek yogurt, cup low-fat cottage cheese

At the event, survey the scene before filling your plate. Determine your options and which desserts are available on the buffet. Decide which foods you like best; choose only those foods and don’t fill up on the others.

Moderation and portion control

One of the reasons it’s so easy to overeat at a party is because we have no clue how many calories weve consumed.

1 Be proactive about creating smaller portions. Try this: Dish out 20 percent less than you think you might want before you start a meal. Also, if you cut your pasta by 20 percent but increase your veggies by the same, your plate will look full, but will hold fewer calories.

Try to sit next to slow eaters. If we sit next to fast eaters, we not only eat faster – we eat more. Studies suggest that the larger the group, the more we will eat.

3 Watch beverage calories. Choose diet and sugar-free drinks when possible. Drink alcohol in moderation and choose lower-calorie drinks such as red wine or light beer versus eggnog or margaritas. Also, stay hydrated: Drink water and calorie-free beverages throughout the day, the event and the season.

Low-cal libations

Throwing your own holiday bash? Here are some great, low-cal drink alternatives:

Wine spritzer: White or red wine and club soda
Cranberry crush: Club soda splashed with cranberry cocktail and frozen grapes
Guiltless hot chocolate: 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder, skim milk, low-cal sweetener and dash of cinnamon and vanilla extract
Apple tea: Brewed tea sweetened with a splash of apple cider and a cinnamon stick
5 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of light beer or 1.5 oz. of liquor combined with non-calorie mixers (all 120 calories)

Get back on the horse

Avoid the all or nothing philosophy. You can enjoy holiday parties without overindulging. Even if you overeat one night, the whole weekend doesn’t have to be a diet bust. Just wake up the next morning, take a walk, eat a healthy breakfast and get right back on track. Dont beat yourself up over one overindulgent event.

Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A frequently requested speaker, she owns a private nutrition consulting company and has developed and designed wellness programs for numerous companies in the St. Louis area. McDaniel is currently an instructor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University.