If you’re like me, it was a bit of a struggle to get back in to the rhythm of healthy eating post X-mas and New Year’s celebrations.

As we celebrate Passover and Easter over the coming days, you might be feeling the challenges of enjoying your holiday favorites and sticking with the good habits you’ve worked hard to put in place over the past few months.

The main purpose of eating should be to nourish and fuel our bodies.  However, eating and sharing food with friends and family as we celebrate is something that is ingrained in most of us from when we are very young – flashback to that baby celebrating a first birthday headfirst in a chocolate layer cake and ice cream!

Food plays a big role in most things we celebrate – all the way from birthdays, to holidays, to retirement dinners.   While you may not always be in control of the kinds of food being served at these celebrations, you can be in charge of how much you are eating.

Here are a few tips that should help you stay on track and still enjoy the festivities:

Curb your appetite:  Start out with a healthy appetizer or a salad before the main meal.  This will help you to limit yourself to one serving of the higher calorie main dish that’s being served.  Or, if you know this is a party where the main course will be birthday cake, make sure you’ve filled up on healthy, lower calorie food beforehand.  Arriving at a “dessert” party on an empty stomach is not a good idea, especially if sweets are your downfall.

Use a smaller plate:  Swap your entrée sized plate for a salad plate.  “Research suggests that can help you take less food and eat less” according to a review of evidence on plate and bowl size published in the Journal of the Association of Consumer Research.  Decreasing plate size by half has been shown to decrease the amount of food people eat as much as 29%.

Take smaller bites:  You might be skeptical of this one but studies have shown people generally eat about 30% less when they slow down and eat smaller bites.

Move away from the food:  Especially at a family gathering or holiday celebration.  Once you’ve enjoyed your meal, don’t hang around the buffet table.  That 2nd helping of cheesecake won’t be as tempting if you are in another room.

Mastering portion control enables you to train your brain so that you feel satisfied on fewer calories.  It may take some work to get used to smaller servings but cultivating a habit of downsizing your portions will make a difference, especially when you are stressed or overtired and your willpower is waning.

Remember that portion control is most important when eating less healthy calorie-dense foodsI’m not aware of any research that would advise against a large serving of broccoli!

So, go ahead and enjoy the celebrations and special foods that accompany them.   Staying mindful of your portion sizes and not overindulging on food will leave you feeling as good as the family and friends you are sharing with!