Sports Woman's legs in running movementHere we go again. The season to eat, drink, and be merry has returned. It’s a magical time of year! But it’s also the season when our healthy habits tend to take a hit.

We’re all familiar with how that can happen. The constant parade of high-calorie holiday fare. Shopping at crowded malls. Parties to plan and attend. Family tensions to deal with. These kinds of holiday “festivities” can undo healthy eating habits, disrupt your workout routine, and send stress levels soaring. But, only if you let them.

The fact is, you can enjoy the holidays and keep your healthy habits (mostly) intact. All it takes is a plan—one that lets you savor the goodness of the holidays without overindulging. Balance is the key.

Here are 5 tips to help you achieve that balance:

  1. Set limits at holiday gatherings. There are a number of ways you can enjoy holiday party fare without sending your calorie intake through the roof. At holiday events, plan to put very small portions on your plate—especially if the buffet offers a lot of rich, high-calorie foods. Avoid going back for second helpings, too. And quell your hunger with a healthy, high-fiber snack before going to a holiday gathering, so you don’t overeat once there.
  2. Keep alcohol intake in check. Alcohol has a lot of empty calories. And, drinking too much can harm your health in many ways. Commit to a drink limit before going to a holiday event and stick to it. You can also opt for alcohol-free cider or eggnog. Or just drink sparkling water, instead.
  3. Handle holiday snack attacks. Arm yourself against the daily onslaught of holiday candies, cookies, and other treats at work and home. Make a pledge to eat no more than one small treat every other day or so. Bring some healthy snacks to work, and nosh on those instead. Nuts, dried fruit, or fresh seasonal fruit all make great holiday snacks. And make sure not to skip meals. Steady energy and healthy blood sugar levels make it less tempting to fill up on holiday sweets.
  4. Carve out time for your workouts. A busy holiday schedule can make it hard to get to the gym. So plan on less time-consuming workouts, instead. Take brisk walks on your lunch break. Try some convenient living room workouts with your favorite fitness DVD. And make holiday family gatherings active affairs with a round of touch football, softball, or soccer. Or lace up your hiking shoes or ice skates and venture to your local trail or skating rink.
  5. Pare down your holiday to-do list. Cramming too many activities into your holiday schedule is a surefire recipe for stress and fatigue. Say “no” to a few holiday party invites. Ease shopping stress by buying online or giving gift cards. And save money, time, and energy by dialing down the hall-decking this year. A couple of wreaths and a few strings of twinkle lights can be just as festive as the 12-foot Douglas fir.

Keep in mind that setting new fitness and nutrition goals may be challenging this time of year. Save those for the New Year. For now, think about striking a balance. Try to stay in your healthy zone as much as possible without depriving yourself this holiday season.