Now that the holiday season is upon us, stress is one of the reasons we choose to over eat or make poor choices. Eating a balanced diet is equally important around the holidays, not just for maintaining weight but also for avoiding depression and getting stressed out.

 Naturally, much of our holiday food is high in fat, sugar and calories. Consuming these types of calories will contribute to depression as well as inflammation and weight gain. Not consuming the daily recommended level of other vitamins could increase your chances of feeling the holiday stress and depression.

 The lack of Vitamin D according to Dr. Mark Hyman can also contribute to depression, which he believes adults should be consuming 5000 IU (International Units per day. However, the National Institute of health believes that a healthy adult should be consuming on average 600 IU’s per day.

 Holiday eating, excess alcohol, sugar and stress also lead to a decrease in magnesium. Dr. Hyman says magnesium is known as the anti stress mineral. According to the National Institute of Health the average adult ages 19 – 90 need about 350 mg a day. You can find magnesium in almonds, spinach, avocado, baked potatoes, brown rice plain yogurt, bananas and some fish including salmon and halibut. Going to a party, select the carrots on the crudité platter or the spinach dip.

 So how do you survive the holidays nutritionally? Don’t go to party’s hungry. It’s the same principle as going to the supermarket hungry. We tend to buy unhealthy foods and more then we set out to buy. Start your day with a light breakfast. Don’t think skipping breakfast will allow you more calories at the party. Truth is it will be more damaging to skip meals that day. Remember to consume something for lunch and even a small snack before you leave for the party.

 Go to parties with a plan of only eating the foods you love or that are a treat. In general it is a good strategy when grazing at parties to say to yourself “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it”. Take a moment when the food is coming your way and ask if you really want it or like. If the cake isn’t your favorite then take a pass and leave it on the table. If you are feeling obligated to eat it, then take a bite and leave the rest. If you are going to eat the calories at least eat them based on what you like.

 If you are not the designated driver and decide to have a drink, alternate the alcohol beverage with seltzer or water. You will save calories and be happier the next morning. Alcohol is damaging to your body on many levels, but it is also empty calories.

 If you are in charge of the kitchen in your home try to alternate ingredients and swap out healthier versions – use low sodium organic chicken stocks, light yogurts, and applesauce as substitutes. Grill or roast those winter vegetables for a natural sweetness. Children love the natural sweetness from roasted vegetables. Make a dip to serve with the roasted vegetables, as it will seem more fun for young children to eat.

 Lastly, to avoid the holiday pounds and blues go out for a walk. Whether you are a work out person or not go out walking. Walking increases your metabolism as well as the “happy hormones” that your body produces. If you go out for a brief walk after your holiday meals it helps with digestion too. If the weather is that frightful over the next few weeks during the holidays and you don’t want to walk out side take a trip to the mall and become a temporary mall walker. Who knows you may even get ideas for gift buying as you are walking around the mall. That will help relief a little stress too!

 Try making granola bars and using them as a go to snack on the day you are going to the party. There are 4 grams of protein per serving and plenty of fiber. Unlike the granola bars in the box there are no additives. Feel free to add ground flax seed, chia seeds or wheat germ to increase the fiber and omega 3’s.