Even the strictest among us can end up breaking down around holiday time. The seemingly never-ending parade of sweet and savoury items firmly rooted in the diet-danger zone can be enough to tempt the most stalwart of low-fat fiends. But that doesn’t mean you have to hide until the holidays are over. We’re sharing some simple but effective ways to steer clear of weight gain this season.

1. Bypass the buffet

We know, every seasonal soiree you go to has an overloaded buffet table laden with once-a-year goodies. Tempting? Sure, but there’s no need to park yourself beside all that food. Take a plate and fill it with a few of your favourites – and then walk away. Go mingle, enjoy the treats you’ve chosen and then put the plate down. Wait at least 30 minutes before you decide whether you need more. Often, our brain doesn’t get the “I’m full” signal right away, so by taking a break you could end up saving yourself hundreds of calories on seconds (or thirds) just by waiting a while and not lingering by the buffet table.

2. Walk everywhere you can

It may be cold out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and get moving. You might not have time to hit the gym for an hour every day, but you can walk to the store to get milk, walk to meet a friend for coffee, or walk to work (distance permitting). If you live somewhere too far from the city center to hoof it, you can still take extra steps. Treat the dog to an extra-long walk every evening (even if you have wrapping and baking to do), go for two 15-minute walks each day — one in the a.m. and one at night, or bundle up and head out as a couple (or family) to wander around after dinner and check out the neighbourhood lights. Remember, every extra step counts.

3. Eat before you party

Going to any holiday party on an empty stomach (even if there will be food) is a recipe for diet disaster. The hungrier you are when you reach your destination, the less willpower you’re going to have when it comes to the most indulgent items on offer, plus you’ll be much more likely to fill your plate with everything, versus being strategic about what you eat. We understand that you may not want a full meal right before a party, but do help yourself to a big salad (leafy greens, canned chickpeas, grated carrot, diced cucumber and bell pepper topped with raw pumpkin seeds), or bowl of hearty soup or chili before you go. The fibre from the beans and veggies will help keep you satiated so you don’t dive headlong into the buffet.

4. Cut the booze in half

Cocktails are a large part of the festive season, but they can also pack on the extra calories. If you want to indulge (we don’t blame you), skip creamy eggnog and other super-sweet drinks in favor of white wine cut with Perrier or club soda. Add a twist of lemon or lime and some crushed ice and you have yourself a low-cal cocktail. By cutting your wine with something non-alcoholic you’re saving mega-calories, and saving yourself from the dreaded post-party hangover.

5. Work out in smaller spurts

No time to hit the gym for your usual hour-long session? No problem. You can still fit in exercise in the time you do have. The key is to squeeze in activity when you can and break it up into shorter chunks. If you can’t go for a one-hour jog, go for two shorter runs when you can swing it. If you can’t complete an entire workout DVD in one shot, do some in the morning and finish it up when you get home from work. Shorter bursts of exercise aren’t a cop-out; they’re equally as effective, but sometimes more efficient based on your busy holiday schedule.

6. Bring your own dish to the event

You might think it’s offensive to bring a dish to the dinner party unprovoked, but for most harried hosts, any extra food they can put on the table will be appreciated. Get in touch with the host and let them know you’d like to bring a dish for everyone that is suited to your dietary needs (low-fat, high-protein, gluten-free, etc.) If you explain why you’re bringing it and that there will more than enough for others, the person planning the event likely won’t mind. That way you’ll be guaranteed a tasty, diet-friendly dish among the other more indulgent options.