Kelley Vargo by Kelley Vargo

The holidays are upon us and, as fun as this time of year can be, it can also create some unwanted stress. From the end of October through the beginning of January, we typically mark the holiday season with parties and meals. It’s important to note that holiday meals often include 3,000 to 4,500 calories, which is well above the recommended 2,000 calories per day. When it comes to managing health, fitness and food this holiday season, the key is to enjoy the fun and flavors you love without overdoing it. And there’s no better place to start than your own parties, where you can control the offerings. Here are five fit-friendly tools for hosting your holiday party.

1. Baking Substitutions

While cookies, cakes and pastries are some of the most delicious aspects of this time of year, these treats aren't always the healthiest and can lead to additional weight gain.

One way to help prevent those extra pounds from creeping up over the holiday season is to alter the recipes a bit. While a majority of the holiday treats call for sugar, butter and fat, you can improve the health profile of many recipes by making some simple substitutions. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Stevia/erythritol in place of sugar
  • Unsweetened applesauce in place of butter
  • Almond flour/coconut flour/oat flour + casein protein powder in place of white flour
  • Unsweetened almond milk/cashew milk/ or skim milk in place of milk
  • Sugar-free chocolate chips in place of chocolate chips

You don’t have to alter every recipe; sometimes, grandma's original recipe shouldn’t be messed with. If that's the case, serve your treats in smaller portion sizes.

2. Fit-friendly Finger Foods

Parties often revolve around appetizers and finger foods. Instead of filling up bowls with chips, pretzels and fat-filled dips, try swapping them out for healthier options. Here are a few of my favorite fit-friendly finger foods:

  • Fresh veggie tray with hummus
  • Fresh fruit tray with non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Bowls of nuts

Even if there are some classic, not-so-healthy finger foods around, that's O.K. Put out smaller plates (as opposed to large ones) for your guests. This can help everyone with portion control without them really knowing it.

3. Get the Party Started

Minimize the sitting time at your next holiday gathering by adding in some movement. A great way to help your guests burn some extra calories is to play music and encourage them to dance. Or, if you're in the spirit, take your guests out Christmas caroling; not only will you be spreading the holiday spirit, but you'll be piling on the steps as well.

4. Don’t Drink All of Your Calories

Holiday- flavored drinks (hot chocolate, egg nog, seasonal martinis, etc.) may be tasty, but they’re also loaded with extra calories. Enjoy these drinks on occasion, but be sure to have other beverages on hand. Water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, coffee and sugar-free hot cocoa are some great options.

5. The Day After

The holidays are about enjoying family, friends and food, and it’s O.K. to treat yourself and enjoy the occasion. One way I like to use "splurges" to my advantage is to get in a good sweat session the day after a party or event. It might not be a 6 am high-intensity workout, but I like to use the surplus of calories I’ve consumed for a good cause.

One final tip: Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) drive you to consume every dessert and treat you come across. There’s always another party and another dessert around the corner. Besides, you’ll enjoy those treats much more if you don’t make it an everyday thing.