You have worked hard all year, eating a whole food plant-based diet, following a structured fitness plan, and reducing your stress levels to help you achieve or maintain a healthy body weight. Congratulations on an excellent job!

The true test of temptation always comes at the end of the year, during the holiday season. There are more “goodies” in the office, more parties to attend, more food-themed gifts, and all those traditional holiday desserts. Depending on which study you read, a person can gain anywhere from 1-10 pounds between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day.

Since food is an important part of many celebrations and family traditions, it’s essential to have an Action Plan to avoid weight gain this holiday season.

The Healthy Holiday Action Plan

-Start the day with a well-balanced breakfast. Chose whole grains, fruit, non-dairy yogurt, and an ounce of walnuts or almonds.

-Eat smaller snacks throughout the day. Do not starve yourself all day in order to eat a larger meal later. This action will cause you to overeat and consume more calories than if you had eaten lightly during the day.

-Don’t let your fitness and stress management routines take a holiday break. Your daily calorie intake may likely increase through the winter months, which means your calorie expenditure should be maintained or increased. In addition to exercise and yoga, a daily meditation practice will also help relieve holiday stress.

-Pay close attention to liquid or cocktail calories. Alcohol can be high in calories. Compare a 10 ounce bloody Mary with 125 calories to a 4.5 ounce piña colada with 245 calories. A red or dry white wine contains around 125 calories in a 5 ounce serving.

-Increase your daily water intake. Chronic dehydration may slow your metabolism and can negatively impact your athletic performance. Monitor the color of your urine. If you are adequately hydrated, your urine should be a pale lemonade color. Keep in mind some medications and vitamins may alter urine color.

-Balance each meal with carbohydrates, protein, and fat from plant- sources. Look for whole-grain, high-fiber foods, that are nutrient dense.

Antioxidants and phytonutrients found in plant-based foods will also help to boost your body’s immune system. When you focus on eating to support your health, you automatically maintain your weight. Foods which support your health are nutrient dense and calorie poor. That means they are loaded with all the healthy nutrients, vitamins and minerals, your body needs, without extra calories. While at holiday parties, take only a “sample” or “bite” size of higher calorie foods.

During this holiday season focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss. If you still have some pounds to lose, now is not the time to start a new weight loss plan or make any major dietary changes. Lastly, sign-up for some winter fitness events in your community or register for a January marathon somewhere warm and sunny.

Happy Holidays!

Alison Ozgur, R.D. Registered Dietitian, Author, and Instructor. Alison is a graduate of the CNS/eCornell certificate program in plant-based nutrition.