As the holiday season approaches, celebrations will be full of good cheer, family fun, and most of all food. But how can we enjoy ourselves without popping a button?

Though the holidays are joyful, the average American gains an average of 10 pounds during this time of year.

Joseph Skelton, M.D., pediatrician and director of Brenner FIT at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recommends the following tips on keeping your cravings in check, but still enjoying this holiday season:

  • Don’t deny yourself. The holidays are a unique time with special foods and family around to savor them with you, but it should not be excessive.
  • Plan beforehand. Keep in mind that you are going to have special foods and attempt to put them in your schedule. For example, on the day of a large holiday dinner, eat a lighter breakfast or lunch and aim towards higher-fiber fruits and vegetables. Don’t plan on indulging on Grandma’s famous apple pie stuffed french toast the same day as Thanksgiving turkey, instead, save it for later in the week.
  • Our minds tell us we are hungry, not our stomachs. It generally takes about six to eight hours before our stomachs start to grumble and we know we’re officially hungry and need to eat. This is referred to as “tummy hungry”. This is a signal that comes about when our body is overdue for food.

    Our hunger normally comes from seeing food, smelling food, thinking about food, or being reminded that it is time to eat. Our minds are focused on food and we tell ourselves we are hungry and that we should eat. Children decipher this as a sign from our brains as hunger when it is actually just a yearning to eat delicious food. This is known as “yummy hungry”.

    This is an explanation on why we frequently overeat during the holidays. Despite not really being hungry and just needing energy, we think about it, and see or smell food we want to eat. When this happens you can ask yourself, “Am I yummy hungry or tummy hungry?” If it is “yummy hungry”, satisfy your desire by just nibbling on a bite or two of a favorite food, then walk away.

  • Wait on seconds. Many times it takes our bodies 20 minutes or more to be full. Often, we eat until the point of fullness, only to have the actual feeling of full kick in later. When we reach this time, we are overfull. To avoid this point, take your time during meals. Sit, talk, relax, and take a break. Give your body time to fill up before agreeing to indulge on seconds.

Other possible pointers for healthy holiday include: drinking water, keep some healthy snacks around, know what you want to buy before entering a candy shop or grocery store, and don’t hang around at the buffet.

Previous research has warned about the danger of over-indulging during the holidays and its consequences which may linger for a long time, well after the holidays are over.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald