Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.

"How can I have fun, butavoid gaining weight, during the holidays?"

It's the most common question I get this time of year-anoccupational hazard of being a registered dietitian, I guess. Butit's no wonder everyone wants to know: from Thanksgiving to New Year's, the holidays are all about thefood. And not just any food, but the rich celebration foods we lookforward to all year long. When forgoing these foods just isn't anoption, follow these 7 tips and tricks to stay in your skinny jeansall season long.

1. Lighten up. Give your favorite traditional recipe a healthy makeover thatpreserves its original deliciousness so it can still fit into youreating plan. That green bean casserole you love might be just as wonderful, oreven better, if you replace the canned mushroom soup with freshmushrooms and skim milk as we do in our healthier version. It'sjust one of many favorite recipes-from creamy soups to sinful desserts-we'vemade healthier without sacrificing flavor.

2. Choose wisely. While some holiday foods areessential, you might feel less strongly about others. Why not trimthose foods from the menu (or leave them off your plate if you'reat someone else's house)? That gives you more leeway to enjoy your"must-haves."

3. Plan ahead. If you're going to a holidayparty or restaurant, find out what's on the menu ahead of time, anddecide what you're going to eat. That way you can adjust the restof your day's eating accordingly.

4. Bring your own. If you're going to an eventwhere you know the foods served will be too rich for you, offer tobring along your own dish to share. Find healthy, but delicious recipes for appetizers, desserts andmore that are perfect for sharing.

5. Navigate the buffet table. Inspect theofferings first before loading up your plate. Make your first tripfor vegetables and salad, then go back for small portions of thericher fare.

6. Think small. If you want to have yourholiday fruitcake and eat it, too, try simply controlling portions.A salad plate or kid-size plate is perfect for your main meal. Usea small bowl for soup and a white-wine glass instead of a bigred-wine glass.

7. Focus on the fun, not the feast. Spend moretime in conversation and enjoying the entertainment than worryingabout what's on your plate.

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