The diet-proof holiday meal: Seven ways to stay on track this season

Holiday dinners are filled with heaping dishes of comfort foods, fattening favorites and savory treats. It is no wonder these meals often leave us feeling stuffed with guilt and holiday remorse.

Patricia Nicholas, a registered dietitian at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, says you can avoid this psychological turmoil by adding "new favorites" to the traditional dishes. "Healthy meals can be festive as well and hopefully, you have been making healthy changes to your diet all year."

Michelle Morgan, a registered dietitian at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, "Stay in tune with your hunger during holiday meals. If you feel satiated and comfortable—stop eating!"

The following is the holiday feast survival guide—a road map of sorts to keep you and your diet from straying too far this year.

  • Re-think your appetizers. Incorporate healthier pre-meal snack options. Swap the bread bowl for whole-wheat pita with a low-fat bean dip.

  • Add some color to your holiday dinner spread with a bowl of fruit or a vegetable salad.

  • Choose smaller portions. You can still taste all the foods in your holiday spread without overeating. Remember, an occasional indulgence will not destroy your weight loss attempts, and if you don't love something don't eat it.

  • The only thing that should be stuffed during the holidays is the turkey. Just because there is more food sitting around, does not mean you need to eat more. A forkful of pie will do less damage than a whole piece.

  • No need for second helpings—have a calorie-free chat instead. The holidays are a great time to engage in conversation with your loved ones—and this will not add inches to your waistline. Just be sure to move the conversation away from the food.

  • Don't skip meals prior to a holiday party or dinner. You are less likely to overeat if you have eaten well throughout the day.

  • Don't allow holiday activity to slow down your exercise program. Bundle up and take a walk after your holiday meal—this not only can prevent you from overeating and picking at leftovers, but it is also a great way to burn off some of the extra calories you may have consumed.