Christmas food traditions, family and friends’ gatherings, buñuelos (cheesy fritters) and lechona are some of the many things I enjoy this holiday season. But if you think that it’s mission impossible to enjoy all of it without breaking the calorie bank, think again. All is needed is some careful planning and moderation.

One of my fave strategies that allows me to eat what I want and keep the calories under control is portion control. Many holiday dishes all over the world are loaded with salt, starch and calories—one good reason to watch those extra-large portions. However, if you attempt to stay away from your favorite foods altogether, it might only lead to cravings and overeating. To me, eating nutritious is balancing food groups without extreme restriction.

  • Prefer whole grains: Stuffing and casseroles can be a big source of extra calories. Select nutrient packed grains such as: quinoa, wild rice, brown rice or barley. For extra gusto, add chopped almonds, carrots, green or red peppers, onions, apples and strawberries to them. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends making half of your starches whole grains.
  • Add plenty of color to your dishes: One way to boost the flavor, color and nutrient content of your meal is to serve roasted vegetables. They are also so easy to prepare! Just cut pumpkin, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and/or cauliflower down into bite-sized; add salt, spices and a little olive oil. Place them in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. Roasted veggies retain more of their nutrients.
  • Indulge in your favorites. Your grandmother’s special cookies or aunt’s tamales may be only available during this holiday season… so enjoy them! And be a little bit more selective at those other Christmas parties you may be attending. If the buffet offers rice, potatoes or yam, select one and don’t stuff yourself with all of them. You can always eat the others the next day or week and avoid those feelings of guilt and remorse.
  • Be prepared. If you suspect that your host will not offer any healthy options, bring some roasted vegetables, quinoa dish or salad. Everyone will appreciate and enjoy your dish.
  • Make exercise a priority. The holiday season is a time of happiness and stress altogether. Exercise, to me, always makes things better. Find easy and enjoyable activities that you can fit into the hustle and bustle of the holidays; perhaps dancing alone or with your kids, walking at the park with a friend, or practicing Zumba.