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The no-diet holiday diet

Dieting around the holidays is no fun. In fact, it can seem like a cruel joke — so don’t do it. You don’t have to diet with our no-diet diet that will help you cut calories and feel great without having to pass up all your favorite foods.

Woman dancing in kitchen

Squeeze in short bursts of fitness

We all know that the holidays mean excess where food and drink are concerned. So counteract the extra calorie consumption with exercise. No time to hit the gym in between all that prep work? That’s OK. Don’t stress yourself out even further by trying to make time for a full workout. Instead, squeeze in fitness with smaller, more manageable bursts. Instead of one 45-minute jog, go for three 15 minute runs, or do half of your favorite exercise DVD in the morning and the other half before dinner. The key is to make sure you’re exercising — but doing it in a way that still lets you get other things done.


Make some smart (and yummy) swaps

Holiday foods tend to be heavy, calorie-laden foods (which is why we love them), but there are some sneaky swaps you can make that don’t compromise all that flavor.

  • Use chicken or vegetable stock for ultra-creamy mashed potatoes instead of cream or butter.
  • Mash cauliflower in place of potatoes (it’s just as rich, but you’re not getting as many calories).
  • Drink white wine spritzers rather than full glasses of wine (add a few frozen cranberries or a lime wedge).
  • Cook stuffing outside of the bird to save calories. We love the idea of baking it in a muffin tins for instant portion control.
  • For any recipes that call for sour cream, use low-fat yogurt instead.
  • Top apple pie with vanilla frozen yogurt rather than ice cream.
  • Roast veggies to bring out their best flavor so you don’t need to add extra fat later. Try parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes and even brussels sprouts.

Get your ZZZs

Sleep is your best friend during the hectic holiday season, especially when it comes to your waistline. Studies have shown that the less sleep you get, the higher your chances are for gaining weight, and this is particularly relevant around the holidays. If you’re tired, you’re more likely to skip the gym and make poor food choices. Whereas if you’re well rested, you’ll have the physical energy to fit in fitness and the mental energy to choose healthy foods over those that are simply comforting. Not to mention that the holidays are a stressful time and that stress only gets worse when you don’t sleep — which can lead to overeating. Get your sleep this season as a way to avoid unwanted pounds.


Exercise while doing other things

You can tone anywhere, while doing most things, so why not add some extra calorie burn to your day (in preparation for all those goodies) by multi-tasking? Stirring something on the stove or waiting for a pot to boil? Do squats and lunges in the kitchen. Talking on the phone? Pace the house or do calf raises. You can also use the kitchen counter to do standing push-ups, do wall sits while you wait for something in the oven and put on high-energy music and dance around the kitchen while you work. You’ll look silly, but you’ll have fun and be burning calories.


Bring a healthy main or side with you

Create a tasty yet low-calorie dish you can bring to holiday dinners (clear it with the host first) so you know there will be something you can eat that you feel good about and that isn’t packed with calories. Make enough for everyone and make sure it’s packed with nutrients. A salad of power-packed quinoa, sauteed kale and your choice of raw, diced veggies is a great choice and one that can be dressed in a variety of flavorful ways, from lemon and olive oil to soy sauce and ginger.


Add flavor without adding fat

Butter, sour cream and cheese are synonymous with holiday cooking but they don’t have to be. There are other, much more waistline-friendly, ways to add flavor to your dishes. Instead of higher-fat flavorings, go heavy on the fresh and dried herbs, aromatic spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and even curry powder (great in mashed sweet potatoes), lemon and lime juice, good-quality balsamic vinegar, low-fat yogurt and soy sauce. By adding more low- and no-fat flavor, you’re creating dishes that taste good — with half the fat.

More nutrition tips

Healthy watermelon chia seed juice recipe
Supermarket find: Good greens that last longer
Fitness in a glass: What makes a healthy beverage?

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