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The much-awaited Noche Buena and Media Noche are just around the corner. You can almost smell and taste your mom’s meatball spaghetti, that Excelente ham your dad waited in line for in Binondo, that striking queso de bola, that crispy lechon skin drizzled with Mang Tomas, that sweet fruit salad saturated with pineapple bits and

Before eating what you can buffet-style, however, keep in mind that you have your health to take care of and that after the merry celebrations, you still have school and work to attend to.

Want to stay healthy amidst all the holiday grind and crunch? Here are easy ways to avoid overindulging on food this holiday season:

1. Keep eating your regular meals.

If you think skipping lunch so you can justify eating more later at noche buena, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Feeling famished upon arriving at the party can push you to eat even more that you initially planned. Apart from messing with your body’s metabolic processes (most likely slowing it down), you’re also likely to grab sugary and high-fat snacks.

Start your day with a high-fiber and protein rich breakfast. This will help you stay full and satisfied throughout the day. Before heading to where all the eating will take place, eat a small, balanced snack. Take advantage of healthier snack options like veggies and almost everything low-fat.

2. Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is practically the same as breathing air. Whether it’s the holiday season or not, you should be drinking two liters of non-caffeneited, non-alcoholic fluid a day. Your brain tends to misinterpret feelings of dehydration as hunger, too, so drinking water can help you feel full and encourage you to eat less. The weather might be bone-chilling unlike summer’s scorching heat, but you need just as much hydration when you race around to get your last-minute shopping done and when you drink alcohol.

3. Practice portion control.

Portion control is exactly how it is called: controlling the amount of food you put on your plate. Sticking to small portions can help, especially when everything served on the table is your favorite. This way, you can enjoy the taste of food without stocking up on calories.  Put a small amount on your plate and stick to a single helping. Use a smaller plate as it can physically limit your food portion and tricks your mind into thinking that you have a larger portion than you do. Eat off a red plate as research results found that people tend to consume less food with it. Besides, who wants to feel sad over a pudding you couldn’t eat for fear of gaining weight? No one.

4. Go easy on the desserts.

Certain foods make you hungrier after you eat them. Sweets and fatty food, in particular, causes your body to increase blood sugar. This needs a lot of insulin to regulate how the body will use and store them. Foods that make your blood sugar spike rapidly will act as appetite stimulants. Going easy on that salad, ice cream, or tapioca can help you feel less like a bottomless pit of hunger.  Whole, unprocessed foods like fruits to feed your sweet tooth can help you improve overall health.

5. Stay active.

You’ve been good the whole year with eating healthy and exercising regularly. Now more than ever do you need to stay on track, with all the calorie-loaded food served at your family dinner and the numerous Christmas parties you attended prior. Research also suggests that exercise lower levels ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite in the short term while raising levels of peptide YY, a hormone that suppresses appetite. Squeezing in that 7-minute high-intensity, interval training or 30-minute jog every morning can make all the difference this Christmas.

There’s nothing wrong with eating all the food you love. Bottomline is, all the holiday eating is not an ‘all or nothing’ situation. While the celebration makes all the food more special, at the end of the day, they’re dishes you can eat the next month, year or the following Christmas. Remember that holiday eating is about treating and not stuffing yourself.

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