Strategies for enjoying yourself without packing on the pounds Page ContentHoliday gatherings and eating go hand in hand - that's why most people gain about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This pound often lingers past the holidays and can lead to gradual weight gain over the years. A good rule of thumb is to choose nutrient-rich foods year round, says registered dietitian Ronda Elsenbrook, R.D."Whether you eat out or eat at home this holiday season, you can follow a few simple tips to combat the unwanted extra pounds," says Ronda. Ronda says you don't have to give up your favorite sweets during the holidays or skip meals entirely. "I always tell my patients to not aim for perfection, with regard to diet and exercise. Establish realistic goals that can be accomplished and removing whole food groups from your diet or telling yourself to eliminate your favorite pastry for life is just not realistic." Ronda adds, "However, it is also not realistic to maintain a healthy weight when you eat high calorie, high-fat foods on a daily basis and do not exercise for 1-2 months." If You're Going to a PartyChoose small, low-calorie/low-fat meals and snacks earlier in the day. If you wait until you are starving to sit down to eat a meal then inevitably you will consume too many calories.Choose boiled shrimp or veggies and a little dip instead of cheese or fried foods. And watch your intake of fat and "empty calories" in sweets, such as eggnog and pumpkin pie. Half a cup of eggnog has 9.5 grams of fat and 171 calories, while one slice of pumpkin pie packs a whopping 14 fat grams and 316 calories. Often times we crave sweets because we are not eating a well-balanced diet overall and we are skimping on adequate sleep and exercise. So choose nutrient rich foods year round, exercise 60 minutes per day and aim for 7 - 8 hours of sleep per night.Foods on your dinner plate may also have hidden calories. For example, half a cup of stuffing has nearly 9 grams of fat and 178 calories. Start your meal with a dinner salad (dressing on the side) and a plate of roasted or grilled vegetables. It takes approximately 20 minutes for our brain to register fullness so chew your food well and eat your vegetables first.If you drink alcohol, have only one alcoholic drink if you're a woman, two drinks if you're a man. Then switch to diet soda or water. Alcohol is high in calories. Plus, the legal intoxication limit for most women is one alcoholic beverage and not much more for men.If you're hungry before the party, Ronda recommends eating something that will curb your hunger and keep your blood sugar levels in check. Ideal pre-party snacks should provide complex carbohydrates with protein, such as an apple and 8 ounces of non-fat plain or flavored yogurt, one cup of bean soup or 2 ounces of turkey on one slice of whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and mustard.Ronda says, "As always, load up on water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. It is great for the body and your kidneys will love you."