Keep It Simple | 5 ways to stay healthy during the holiday season

Holiday travel is nearing for many of us, which means packing, checking the weather and communicating with all 26 of your relatives (including your spouse's' crazy cousin) about what to bring for Thanksgiving Dinner. With that in mind, it's only natural that eating right is the last thing on your mind.

While you are vacationing and traveling this holiday season, check out a few tips to make dining out or on the road as healthy and easy as possible.

1. If you are traveling, plan ahead

Yes, I know it's a lot easier said than done, still, try to pack up some snacks that are going to last; nuts, seeds, beef jerky. Having snacks will help prevent you from overindulging in fries, burgers, chicken strips, candy, chips, etc. If you know you are going to a restaurant once you arrive at your destination, Google the menu ahead of time. Then you can plan accordingly and choose a meal consisting of the proper nutrients you need to sustain the energy it takes to keep up with your mother-in-law.

2. When you are dining out…

When you do dine out, order first. In an article from CNN, registered dietitian Marissa Moore said, “There is an interesting study that shows that women tend to mirror each other when we go out to eat. If you order your meal first, before everybody else starts to order, then you might actually set the tone for the table to order healthier options."

3. Drink plenty of water

Obviously, drinking water is important (I talk about it quite a bit.) However, when you are dining out or traveling, it will be your best friend. (Not only for your bladder, but definitely for your waistline.) It has been proven that drinking water before meals will help you feel more full, resulting in you eating less. Water also gives you the energy you need for long days in the car, boosts your metabolism and keeps you concentrated (so you won't miss that exit on the freeway or the nearest rest stop.)

HOWEVER, if you feel hungry, then eat. Knowing the difference between feeling hungry and being thirsty is crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle; the two can feel very similar. Check out this article to learn more.

4. Make it your meal

When you are at a restaurant, don't be afraid to ask for substitutions or dressings on the sides. Also, read the menu carefully and watch for words such as “crispy, breaded, fried, creamy.” Focus on getting the necessary nutrients you need — stick to salads or a source of protein (poultry, steak, fish) with steamed veggies. When you order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side. Restaurants will usually douse salads with two to three more times the amount needed which adds a lot of unnecessary calories. (More than likely, you won't use all the dressing they give you on the side anyway.)

5. Alcohol …

When the holidays do come around, it is time for celebration, which means you may want to have a drink or two. That's fine. Just don't go overboard. When alcohol hits the bloodstream and the more loose you feel, the more those cravings skyrocket. Also, consider how many calories each drink has. One cup of the classic Hot Buttered Rum holds up to 300 calories. Check out this list of suggested low-calorie mixed drinks.

In the end, the holidays are about celebrating with the ones you love and enjoying yourself, so pace yourself and don't go overboard. Have a great holiday season (even with the crazy relatives)!