When you think of the holidays, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Grandma’s pie? Fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies? Mountains of mashed potatoes swimming in gravy? A loaded plate piled high with all the trimmings? While that all sounds delicious, for many people they can’t help but think of the inevitable weight gain from the monthlong eating spree.

It’s possible, if not likely, to pack on 5 pounds between now and January – and it’s easier than you might think. Most people only add a pound or two over the holidays. But when you look at what a few extra indulgences can cost you, the calories add up fast. Gaining 5 pounds before the New Year would mean taking in an extra 17,500 calories or so between now and January. If that sounds like a lot, you’re right. 

Take Thanksgiving as an example. We’ve turned the holiday into an entire day of eating, rather than just a dinner. Many people plan the main event for early in the day – then squeeze in a repeat performance later in the evening. Total calories for the day could easily top 5,000 or more, or about 2,500 calories beyond what the average person needs, and that’s not even taking the leftovers into account!

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to eat, drink and be merry all holiday season long without derailing your weight-management goals. Check them out below!

Stick to Your Routine
Rather than using the holidays as an excuse to let yourself go, try to stick to your usual eating routine. If your meal is served later than normal, have a snack in the midafternoon to help curb your intake. Also, don’t skip meals as it will make you more likely to overeat.

Watch Your Portions
For some people, a holiday meal is their Olympics. They see it as a chance to indulge in a variety of special treats they only eat once a year, and it doesn’t help that holiday platters are often gigantic and placed on the table. Keep an image in your head of the portion sizes you know you should eat and do your best to stick to them. Also, pass bowls and platters of tempting foods to the opposite end of the table to get them out of your line of sight. Steer clear of the “everyday” treats that you could eat any time and save those calories for the special foods that you only enjoy once a year.

Eat Mindfully
Treat holiday meals like a marathon, not a sprint. Take time to chew your food and experience the special dishes you only get to eat once or twice a year. This will help you from overeating.

Step Away from the Table
Holiday meals tend to be more leisurely. But the longer you sit at the table, the more you’re likely to absentmindedly grab another spoonful of mashed potatoes or a second slice of pie. Take your plate into the kitchen, brush your teeth, or pop a breath mint in your mouth to signal that your meal is over.

Be Mindful of Liquid Calories
’Tis the season for festive cocktails, which are usually loaded with sugar and empty calories. Before you get into the holiday spirit, set a limit of how many drinks you plan to have, and stick to it. Try alternating alcoholic beverages with calorie-free ones or sip on sparkling mineral water with a slice of lime.

Stay Hydrated
Just because it’s no longer hot outside doesn’t mean you should reduce your water intake. Drinking water is important year-round, especially during the winter when your immune system relies on a well-hydrated body to keep you healthy.

Start by drinking a glass of water in the morning and right before your meal. If you find it hard to drink plain or cold water, drink tea or enjoy a bowl of soup. Don’t forget that watery foods like fruits and vegetables (but particularly cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and leafy greens) contribute to your overall daily fluid needs.

Keep Moving
Make a commitment to stay on track with your exercise routine. If you can’t make it to the gym, watch an online HIIT workout video  and break a sweat in your hotel room or living room, take the family dog for a walk, or better yet, get the whole family out of the house and go for a walk! For more seasonal workouts, you could also go ice skating, sledding, skiing or hiking.

Reduce Stress
The holidays can be stressful, which can lead to stress eating. Rather than turning to food, have a cup of tea, take a bath, watch your favorite holiday movie, curl up next to the fire with a good book, meditate, or take a walk/go for a jog instead.

Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is just as important for your health as nutrition and exercise! A good night’s sleep will make it easier to face the daily stresses of the holidays and help you look your best. Keep in mind, both alcohol and caffeine can disrupt normal sleep patterns which make it hard to stay asleep and reach the deepest (and most restful) stage. If you want to wake up feeling refreshed and energized, try to get eight hours of sleep each night.