It’s the most fattening time of the year.

Oh yes people, you know it, I know it and if you’re not careful your thighs and belly will know it too. It has been studied that people who gain weight during the holiday season do not tend to lose it. So perhaps it is only one pound this year but after five to ten years it turns into five to ten pounds and that is just the weight that you gain during one single part of the year! Ouch. A large part of this season is about giving and sharing. Giving and sharing lots and lots of unhealthy food through potlucks and parties. If you happen to be one of these folks start a new tradition, bring something healthy and delicious. Make it a point that if you do a plan a potluck or host a party that only one dish is a sweet treat and the rest of the dishes are on the healthier end of things. Here are some suggestions on hosting a potluck or party and how to ensure that people do not leave feeling cheated out of tasty treats but also not feeling like they cheated on their diets or healthy lifestyle.

1.Have a sign up sheet. When it comes to office gatherings and bringing in a dish, set up something so that not only do you not have repeats of dishes but you can also guarantee that the majority of them aren’t too naughty. Set up categories such as: Veggie, Fruit, Carb, Starch, Meat/Fish, Drink and Sweet and then make a note to keep it healthy. This is a great way to bring holiday cheer and challenge some of the chefs to be conscious about their dishes. Try to exclude pasta dishes and cheeses as these pack in a lot of calories in a small serving. Instead, encourage hummus for the veggies to be “dipped in” or homemade guacamole and lightly salted tortilla chips as the snack.

2.When setting up your buffet table, start with the healthy stuff first. People are likely to load up on the first few items when going down the line and then widdle their way down through the rest. I’m sure you have said it plenty of times yourself while walking the buffet line, “I ran out of room on my plate!”. Set it up so that the salad or other veggie options are first, then the fruits followed by the starches which are followed by the meat/fish dishes and then carbs and lastly, the sweets and drinks. This will encourage people to load up instead on the healthier options leaving little room for the breads and sugar.

3. Use smaller plates and cups. Choose the 7 inch option rather than the 9 inch for the plates. Also, choose the smaller 8 ounce cups rather than the regular 12-16 ounce. People can always go back for more if they want but if they are given large enough plates they will pile them with food and feel like they should either finish their plate or end up tossing their plate with a lot of food still on it.

That doesn’t sound too difficult does it? It’s all about strategy. Teams do not win games without strategy and you will not win the battle against the holiday bulge without one either. Also, take it upon yourself that if you happen to be one of the folks bringing a dish, that you make it a healthy option. If you are going down the line at the buffet, look at what is available and make sure you heap up on the healthy things and leave little room for the rest. Remember, you can always go back for more but give yourself about ten minutes between finishing what you have and going back for more. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to register “I’m full”. Changing these little things can make a big difference and this is all great knowledge for the rest of the year too.

Below are some suggestions for healthy dishes that are making my stomach growl:

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Winter Jeweled Fruit Salad

Haricots Verts with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Polenta Wedges with Tomato Tapenade