Healthy-option meals are shown on a dinner table.
By paying attention not only to what you’re eating but how you’re eating, you can avoid climbing aboard the holiday weight gain train. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

With so many tempting goodies to choose from, perhaps it’s no surprise that most Americans pack on one to two pounds each holiday season.

This may not sound like a big deal, except very few of us manage to take it off—ever. Over the years, these extra pounds can add up and contribute not just to a rounder physique, but to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.

To avoid weight gain and its potential long-term health impacts, experts at the Spectrum Health Women’s Health & Wellness Center offer a few strategies to help get you through the holidays.

By paying attention not only to what you’re eating but how you’re eating, you can avoid climbing aboard the holiday weight gain train and enter the new year feeling fit, fresh and ready to achieve your best health yet.

Their top 7 tips:

1. Avoid the EWW.

One reason so many of us gain weight over the holidays is we tend to EWW: Eat Well While. Because we’re likely to eat while catching up with friends and relatives or while enjoying a favorite holiday movie, we often don’t focus on how good our food tastes or when we feel full. To avoid overindulging, try to minimize distractions.

2. Don’t skip meals.

It might sound counterintuitive, but don’t skip breakfast or lunch in order to save calories for a holiday dinner. Showing up beyond hungry to a holiday meal means you’re more likely to splurge on less nutritious options.

3. Drink wisely.

Calories from alcohol are empty calories with no nutritional value. For most women, responsible drinking consists of no more than one or two drinks per day and certainly no more than one drink per hour (one 12 oz. beer, one 5 oz. glass of wine, or one 1.5 oz. shot of 40% alcohol). If you’re not in a positive frame of mind, lay off the booze altogether.

4. Enjoy a little of everything.

Try to steer clear of “all or nothing” thinking. Instead of declaring certain dishes off limits or getting into a cycle of limiting and splurging, try to enjoy a little of everything you want. Try some of that casserole. Have a few bites of that delectable dessert. But pay attention to your body’s internal cues and stop when you’re full.

5. Add a little green.

Holiday tables aren’t usually known for the green stuff. But most will include at least some green vegetables: broccoli salad, green bean casserole, roasted brussels sprouts. Before filling your plate with other options, make sure to grab some green.

6. Have a plan.

Be clear with yourself about what your goals are. Are you limiting sweets? Not going back for seconds? Avoiding sugary beverages? Instead of “trying to eat healthy,” pick one to three concrete goals and stick to them. If you get off track, forgive yourself and try again at the next meal.

7. Keep calm and carry on.

The holidays often come with extra stress—and this year is likely to be no exception. If you end up overdoing it one day, don’t call it quits and continue with the same pattern. Pick yourself up and re-commit to achieving your concrete goals.