"Holiday Healthy Eating"The last few months of the year can test any healthy eating plan. It starts at Halloween, when you indulge in “just a few” pieces of candy. The next thing you know, you’ve overdone it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now you can’t fit into the new outfit you wanted to wear on New Year’s Eve!

Sound familiar? Don’t worry. With a little preparation and commitment, you can survive the holidays without gaining weight. But in order to avoid all of the temptations that come along with the holiday season, you need to have an effective game plan in place BEFORE the parties and events begin.

Here are my favorite healthy eating tips for the holidays:

1. Choose when to cheat.

Decide ahead of time which parties or events are going to be part of your “cheat day” or “cheat meal.” This will allow you to give yourself a break without turning a splurge into a downward spiral.

2. Prepare to share.

Have you ever arrived at a get-together, only to find that there are NO healthy food or drink choices? Another smart way to prevent weight gain during the holidays is to prepare a healthy, delicious dish you can bring and share at parties. This ensures that there will be at least one healthy option to keep you on the right track.

3. Make exercise expected.

Yes, the weeks before the holidays are busy, but it’s vital that you still maintain a regular workout regimen. If you usually go to the gym every day after work, keep this habit in place. If you have to miss a day or two due to parties and events, that’s okay! Just don’t lose the habit.

4. Batch food to blast fat.

A smart way to keep healthy food on hand is to do more batch cooking. Recruit another family member (your spouse, a parent, the kids) and spend some quality time together while you chop veggies for snacks and freeze prepped ingredients for make-ahead meals.

Make holiday baking better (and better for you)

Baked goods can be especially tempting during the holidays. I’ll share some super-secret substitutions for holiday recipes straight from my own kitchen…as long as you promise to incorporate them into your own baking!

Instead of sugar, choose stevia or raw honey. They’re healthier, and I bet your family won’t even taste the difference.

Try replacing chocolate and candy with fruit-based desserts, and keep raw nuts on hand to snack on instead of sugary sweets.

Last but not least, try gluten-free flours like bean, nut, or coconut flour instead of white and wheat flours, which contain tummy-expanding gluten.

Maintaining a healthy weight during the holidays is actually not as difficult as we worry it’s going to be. With a little preparation and smart substitutions, you can get through this busy season without having to buy bigger clothes in January.

Isabel De Los Rios, certified nutritionist and co-founder of the popular wellness community BeyondDiet.com , is passionate about helping people feel great about their bodies, their weight, and their health.

This an other seasonal articles can be found in the 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide  (PDF). You can also read the Flip Version .