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As the season for holiday parties, family feasts, and daily office treats gets into full swing, registered dietitian Sue Mah offered some tips to CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday for staying on a healthy track while still enjoying yourself. Hint: they involve moderation, mind tricks and optical illusions.

Give yourself permission to enjoy

“My No. 1 rule of thumb is to follow the 80-20 rule. 80 per cent of the time, you are going to eat well, make those healthy choices. Twenty per cent of the time, you can indulge without any guilt.”

She points out that over a 365-day year, 20 per cent is 73 days, which covers all the birthdays, holidays and other occasions you want to enjoy.

Bring a veggie dish

Most Canadians aren’t getting enough vegetables or fruits, so “be a veggie hero,” says Mah, by bringing a veggie dish to potlucks and parties. Her favourite is arugula salad with roasted beets, toasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. She says it tastes great and looks festive. Another idea is steamed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

Power on the protein

Protein slows digestion and helps us feel fuller for longer, so it can help prevent overeating. Protein allows for a steadier and more prolonged rise in energy compared to carbohydrates. Mah recommends eating protein at each meal.

Use smaller plates and taller glasses

The bigger the plate, the more food you’re going to pile on it. Go for a smaller plate that fills up much faster. As for drinks, we tend to drink faster from short wide glasses, so use those for water and put cocktails and sweetened beverages into tall glasses.

Remember that Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than three drinks for women and four drinks for men on any single occasion. For each alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic one.

Hold your drink in your dominant hand

“That means you’ve got to use your non-dominant hand to pick up those little nibbles. It’s a little trickier, it’s a little messier, you’re a little more clumsy,” she said. “Those calories can add up quickly if you’re nibbling.”

And if you overdo it?

“Take it easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. It happens to all of us.”

Stay hydrated and listen to your body. You might want to have small snacks instead of large meals. Mah also recommends getting outside for fresh air and exercise.