Nutrition experts advise on the smartest holiday indulgences

We accept that things may go off the rails this time of year. Use these tips to keep things (relatively) healthy over the holidays.

Christmas ale and easy roasted chestnuts

Christmas ale and easy roasted chestnuts

The seasonal temptation to eat like it’s our last few days on earth is already in full swing. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that there are any number of sugary Christmas cookies being distributed at work (I both bless and curse ye home bakers!), and oh-so-decadent seasonal caffeine confections for sale at our local coffee shop.

Even retailers are in on the conspiracy to fatten us up for the holidays. Recently, while Christmas shopping, the cashier offered me a wedge of homemade toffee. How could I resist? Really. How?

As the holiday parties kick into high gear our friends, family and colleagues will be making us offers of delicious indulgences that are impossible to refuse. And because we are human we will go a little bit overboard. We will eat too many desserts and too few vegetables (unless they’re caramelized or pickled) and we won’t feel like exercising at all.

We may also find ourselves doing strangely decadent things like putting gravy on our toast and mixing hot chocolate in our morning coffee rather than regular old milk as is our usual habit.

Weight gain — a little extra loft in our muffin top — will be the consequence of this joyous food frenzy. But it is not inevitable. We can stave off gaining a couple of extra pounds in several ways. We can continue to work out, for example. We can avoid holiday bake sales. We can forbid ourselves the second helping.

Nutrition experts advise people to employ several tricks to keep weight gain at bay during the holidays.

Be choosy about what you indulge in, says Amy Moore, an assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics and Ethel Frese, an associate professor of physical therapy and athletic training, at Saint Louis University on the website

Don’t eat donuts and cookies — things you can have any time of year. Eat those items that only come once a year, like your granny’s rum balls or your uncle’s famous shortbread cookies (the ones with the maraschino cherries on top!).

The duo also suggest people plan ahead. If you know you’re going to a holiday party, sneak in a workout and a healthy meal beforehand. Both activities will make overindulgence less likely.

And if you don’t take any of the well intentioned dietary advice that proliferates like sugar cookies at this time of year, but instead do what you always do and eat too much, be sure to enjoy every excessive calorie. Such apocalyptic abandon only comes once a year. The first day of the rest of your dietary life starts on January 1.

What’s one thing you allow yourself to indulge in over the holidays? Tell us in the comment section below.