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How to prevent overindulging at holiday parties

HOUSTON – When it comes to the holiday season, a big reason people look forward to this time of year is family.

"Just getting to spend time with the family, give them gifts, instead of them giving me gifts for the first time in a long time," said Cody Swann of Houston.

"The food. The food definitely," said Melody Pena.

"I'm a sucker for those small plates," Swann said. "Anything like chips and dips or little finger foods."

Tis' the season to over-indulge at all the holiday parties and forget about the waistline.

"That's what New Year's resolutions are about," said Swann.

"Most people expect to gain weight over the holidays, but you don't have to," said Kathie Nelson Dietitian, with UT Health

Nelson is also an expert at tackling that holiday buffet line.

"Survey what is available and kind of plan your attack," said Nelson.

When it comes to chips and dip plates, Nelson said, "Rather than regular potato chips, hopefully the hostess will provide baked sweet potato chips, which is a much better alternative. Dips can be a mine-field. If you're making it yourself, you can change the components. Instead of using sour cream, use yogurt. You'll save a ton of calories and it'll taste almost the same."

Hummus is also a good alternative.

But Swedish meatballs can be a hidden danger.

"They're going to be little calorie bombs," said Nelson. "Instead of that, (make) boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce. Or your skewer of tomatoes and mozzarella (is) another good choice and very pretty, too."

With sandwiches, some may think they're doing well because a lot of them have cold cuts in them.

"You can do even better if it's a lettuce wrap sandwich," Nelson said.

And there are hidden calorie dangers in cocktails.

"The problem with cocktails is that you're drinking your calories," Nelson said.  "Choose the beverage or cocktail that's lower in calories. For example, sparkling water, garnished with some fruit."

Or hot cider instead of the eggnog.

The pigs in a blanket are always a party favorite.

"Those pigs in a blanket, again, can be little calorie bombs," said Nelson. "So instead, if there's an option to have something like asparagus wrapped in filo dough, that's really going to cut down on the calories and give you some veggies as well."

The dessert table is always a favorite, and party-goers don't have to skip it.

"Maybe have two cookies," said Nelson. "If there's some very favorite dessert that you only get at the holiday time, have a little bit of it and enjoy."

Another one of Nelson's favorite tricks: "Use a small plate. That will help you with portion control."

So whether you've been naughty or nice this holiday season, experts say it's easy to get out of your usual workout routine. So try to fit in some activity anywhere you can, even if it's a stroll after your next holiday party.