We’re into the home stretch of 2018 and that means the start of the holiday season is upon us.  It’s the time of year when the festive surroundings push us toward loosening our resolve, as well as our belts, for nearly two months. Then, just when we’ve had enough, the diet industry beckons us in full force come January to let them help us undo all of the damage we’ve done.

The good news is that there’s a way to approach the season that will defy common wisdom and help you and your family avoid the potential pitfalls so you can end the year better than you started. It is possible to maintain the progress you’ve made this year in your own personal health or use the season to kickstart some healthy habits and enter the New Year feeling great.

What’s important to remember is that small changes can be the most impactful because they are more likely to stick. In addition, don’t think of them as a healthy makeover; think of them as creating new traditions. Consider introducing some of these new activities to make subtle adjustments to your holiday routine that you and your family will love:

Add a little movement to your festivities! 

A short walk before or after a holiday meal will keep your health goals top of mind, burn a few calories and eliminate a little bit of stress. Invite your family and friends to join you to extend the warmth of the holiday season.

Try interactive games (away from the screens!) that get your guests of all ages moving and engaged after dinner such as Charades, Simon Says, or a treasure hunt. Let the kids plan something for the whole family to join in.

Food is an important part of connecting with the people who are important to us.

Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods. If you are the holiday cook you can make a few ingredient swaps in your meal and dessert that guests will probably not even notice (and will appreciate if you share your secret!). The American Heart Association provides a great list of food and beverage substitutes. If you’re not the cook, don’t feel like you have to eat everything.  No one will notice if you eat only your favorites.

Plan the meal and create your plate with half fruit and vegetables. Try roasting vegetables to bring out the flavor and use less butter and salt.

Choose a recipe that the kids will be in charge of preparing. They will enjoy their masterpiece and look forward to a new recipe each year as their cooking skill improves.

Lastly, don’t use skipping meals as a strategy for reducing your total calories for the day. It will more than likely cause you to overeat.

While you’re thinking about creating healthy family traditions, why not extend that goodwill?

We waste about 40 percent of our food in this country and it winds up in a landfill. Take the holiday meals as an opportunity to buy and cook the right amounts, give away leftovers to guests or turn them into meals or new recipes to enjoy the next day!

Enlist a team of dishwashers to assist instead of using paper or foam disposables. Nothing wrong with a dishwashing tradition, right? Some families find it’s a good time to practice caroling in the kitchen!

Take the time to help those who are less fortunate with a physical activity angle. Look for a charity walk or run that the whole family can join.

Above all, enjoy your family and friends and sprinkle in a few healthy traditions that you can pass on to the next generation and will only add to the fun!