The holidays have come again and that means numerous gatherings and a whole lot of eating, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your health for enjoyment or vice versa.

Awareness of your choices includes awareness of nutrition information, and that includes the percentage of sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and the caloric value.

Preparing your food at home also gives you control over the ingredients and preparation method of the food that you eat as compared to just buying your intake from restaurants. This includes reasonable portioning and the variety of ingredients that will ensure that you get your daily nutritional needs.

To keep you from the New Year's rush to lose weight and to help you maintain good health, the American Heart Association shares some tips and tricks to enjoying holiday meals with less of the guilt.

Tips For Eating Healthy During The Holidays

At the top of the list is, of course, choosing your food wisely. Whether by ingredient, brand or preparation, being mindful of your food choices always goes a long way especially when it comes the food's impact on your health.

What Foods Should You Limit Consumption?

• As always, foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium are at the top of the list of foods you must limit in your diet.

• Red meat is also high on the list but, if it cannot be helped, select leaner cuts of meat instead.

What Foods Should You Include In Your Holiday Diet?

• It's hard to go wrong with fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet but legumes, nuts and seeds are good as well.

• For your protein fix, fish and skinless chicken are also preferred, as well as dishes and desserts made with low fat dairy.

The AHA suggests looking for the Heart-Check mark when buying ingredients to identify products that can contribute to your overall health.

Holiday Drinks

The holidays normally call for celebratory drinks, and the AHA kept that in mind.

• When drinking eggnog, the AHA suggests using alternatives to lessen the caloric value of this traditional drink: use skim milk, cut out the alcohol, and skip the whipping cream. You can still keep the tradition without sacrificing your health.

• The same suggestions go for other holiday drinks such as warm hot chocolate and apple cider. By using non-fat or low-sugar options, you can still enjoy these drinks with less the caloric value. Or if you have the time and creativity, you can even try making your own versions of the drinks instead of the store-bought variety.

• For cocktails that complete the holiday spirit, opting for the non-alcoholic versions may lessen the caloric value of your celebratory drink. However, the AHA reminds consumers to once again check the labels for the nutritional value as some non-alcoholic options tend to go crazy on the sugar.

• And if your holiday will simply be incomplete without just a little alcohol, breaking it up with water in between drinks will help you fill up more quickly and lessen the chances of overindulgence and binge drinking.

As always, moderation is the main key to keeping a healthy lifestyle, and this remains true even during the holidays.

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