Diet and nutrition

How to make it to 2012 in one piece

Dec. 29, 2011 at 2:40 PM ET

The holiday season is almost over -- just one more potential health hurdle remains: New Year's Eve. TODAY contributor Dr. Roshini Raj gives some late-in-the-game advice for how to get to 2012 with your best health intact. 

Back away from the buffet table. Or, at least, come at it with a strategy in mind, advises Raj. Instead of using a full dinner plate, try using a salad plate -- it's smaller, so you won't be able to pile up too much food. And before you start loading up, take a minute to check out all the options, so you grab only your favorites and don't end up eating dishes you don't even like. 

Raj also suggests having a "no seconds" rule: "Whatever's on your plate, you can eat -- but you're not going back to that buffet table," she says. And be sure to have at least a small snack at home before heading to the party -- that way, you won't be famished upon arriving, ready to gobble up anything and everything in sight. 

Pace the drinking. You can have fun without overdoing it, Raj reminds. Remember: Don't drink on an empty stomach. "We all kind of know this, but you have to make sure there's something in your stomach to absorb the alcohol so it doesn't get to your stomach quite so quickly," Raj says.

You might also try drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink -- it'll make you feel more full and less dehydrated. (At this, TODAY anchor Savannah Guthrie quipped, "And if you drink a lot of water, maybe your hangover won't be as bad!" Wise words.) 

Don't forget to sleep! If you stay out too late at a New Year's party, you can catch up the next day with a brief catnap -- but don't sleep longer than 30 to 40 minutes. "If you do it much longer than that, it can make you feel even more tired," Raj explains. "But a brief nap can really help energize." 

Stop slacking on your exercise routine. December is such a busy month, packed with parties, holiday shopping and long travel days -- so it's no wonder that many of us take a break from our usual fitness routine. But try to do something active several times a week -- even if it's a shorter stop at the gym than usual.

Of course, there are ways to get a workout in outside the health club. "If you're at the party, get on the dance floor and boogie a little bit!" Raj says. “You’re not at the bar, you’re not at the food table, you’re actually having fun with your friends, and you’re burning some calories.”

Above all: Try not to stress yourself out. Were you invited to three New Year's Eve parties, you popular person, you? You don't want to spend the whole night in traffic. Pick one -- two at the most -- and stick with it. And be kind to yourself when it comes to your 2012 goals. "Be realistic about your New Year's resolution," Raj says. "Don't set really huge goals for 2012, but realistic, achievable ones, because you don't want to be beating yourself up the whole time."