By Jessica Aragona-Shaw, MS, RD

The holidays are a great time for celebrating with friends and family over food and drinks. With just a little preparation, you can keep off the extra holiday pounds and still enjoy all that the season has to offer.

Reduce Fat and Calories Without Sacrificing Taste: Try swapping a few ingredients in your favorite recipes:

  • Using two egg whites in place of one egg to cut cholesterol but keep the same tasty result.
  • Use low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth in your mashed potatoes to add flavor instead of butter or margarine.
  • Substitute applesauce for oil, margarine or butter when baking to make you cakes, breads and muffins less fattening but more moist.
  • For dips, sauces and pie toppings use fat-free Greek yogurt, sour cream or cool-whip.
  • Sliced almonds make a delicious, crunchy topping in place of fried onion rings.
  • Choose reduced-fat or low-fat cheeses for salads and casseroles.

Pack your shopping cart with plenty of fresh vegetables: Stock up on sweet potatoes, winter squash, broccoli, carrots and green beans. Apples, cranberries and pears combine easily for a tasty salad or fruit crisp.

If You are a Guest at a Holiday Gathering Consider These Tips to Keep Your Night Healthy, Happy, and Safe:

  • If you plan on treating yourself later, start your day with a small meal that includes whole grains, fruit, low-fat or fat-free dairy and protein like eggs, ham or peanut butter.
  • Don’t starve yourself beforehand, instead eat a small, lower-calorie meal or snack such as fruit or a bagel so you aren’t tempted to overdo your calorie intake for the day.
  • Choose carefully between foods you definitely will eat, those you will sample and those you will skip.
  • Don’t rush to eat. Socialize and settle into the festivities before you eat.
  • Move away from the food table- this will help minimize any unconscious nibbling.

Satisfy your Thirst: Before having an alcoholic drink and start with a zero-calorie beverage like seltzer or water with lemon.

Drink Responsibly: Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.

Be Safe: Keep in mind, just one drink can change your reflexes. If you plan to drink, keep your holidays happy and safe for everyone by designating a driver.