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November 26, 2014 8:00 AM EST

You’ve done battle with party buffets and holiday cookies before, and even though you know what to do (fill up from the veggie platter, chew slowly, yada yada), somehow the buffet always wins. Then it’s New Year’s—and you’ve packed on an extra few pounds. But that’s not going to be you in 2015. We ditched the usual tips and tapped everyone from celebrity trainers to food pros who are constantly surrounded by temptation for their best strategies to avoid gain—without sacrificing fun.

Focus on just one healthy habit

“I try not to give myself too many rules when at a party. Instead, I zero in on a single healthy practice,” says trainer Gunnar Peterson, whose clients include Khloe Kardashian and Sofia Vergara. “It can be anything from not drinking alcohol to skipping the passed appetizers or desserts. If you give yourself one thing, you’ll likely stick to it.”

Create a workout willpower playlist

Getting psyched to exercise when there’s so much fun to be had isn’t easy. So make a new playlist with this fresh spin: “Limit the total time of all the songs to the number of minutes you want to exercise,” says SoulCycle instructor Charlee Atkins. “Then make a promise to yourself that all you have to do is listen to the songs to get through your workout.”

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Handle a buffet like skinny people do

Slim types are more likely than their pudgy peers to scout out a buffet before grabbing a plate, finds research by Brian Wansink, PhD, published in his new book Slim by Design. They also choose a small plate, sit 16 feet farther from the buffet and are more apt to face away from the food. So grab the bread plate instead of the dinner-size one, and once you’ve filled it, sit down somewhere a good distance from the spread.

Make water work a lot harder for you

Carry your clutch or your smartphone in one hand and a glass of water in the other, advises celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin, author of The Sugar Impact Diet: “With both your hands full, you’ll be much less likely to grab whatever sugary concoction or fattening appetizer is being passed around.” Also, make seltzer with a twist of lemon or lime your go-to drink between cocktails. It slows down consumption of alcohol and helps fill you up so you don’t eat as much later, explains Brett Hoebel, who has been a trainer on The Biggest Loser.

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Follow the three-bite rule

This one is another binge buster: “You grabbed a tart? Great. You get three bites,” Atkins says. “Use the first bite as your taste test. Is it worth another bite? If you make it to the second bite, mentally note what flavors you taste. When bite three rolls around, really savor your treat, and keep savoring it if you choose to finish it.” Truly enjoying what you eat instead of scarfing it down helps you feel more satisfied—and less likely to reach for tart number two.

Nibble like this while cooking

Sampling the cheeses as you cut and licking the frosting bowl are classic fat traps. Try this: Right before New York City food stylist Lori Powell gets busy in the kitchen, she’ll cut an apple into slices. “I snack on them as I cook. Apples have fiber and help me stay full, so I tend to nibble less.” She also tastes stuff with baby or demitasse spoons to keep servings small. Need to sample already-finished food? Take a bit, then step away from the batch. “In our job, portion control is important,” Katherine Kallinis Berman says. It’s no joke: She’s co-founder of Georgetown Cupcake and co-star of the hit series DC Cupcakes on TLC. “When trying multiple flavors,” she says, “we’ll split the cupcakes into halves or quarters so we can share.”

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Torch calories while shopping!

Entering your credit card numbers on websites repeatedly won’t do much for calorie burn, but this will (and may help prevent overspending): “After each purchase, bang out 10 squats and 10 burpees,” suggests Adam Rosante, a trainer and founder of The People’s Bootcamp. “If you’re dress-shopping at the mall, knock out 12 triceps dips in the fitting room. You don’t need a lot of time to get a great workout.”

Have a morning-after pig-out plan

We all have moments of weakness. If you blow it, reset your body and mind ASAP so you don’t continue blowing it for weeks to come. Harley Pasternak, the star trainer behind Megan Fox and Rihanna and author of The Body Reset Diet, explains: “If I’ve had a big celebratory meal, I’ll commit to walking 10,000 steps the next day and eating protein and fiber five times a day.” The combo should contain that gnawing in your belly.

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Sip this, skip that

A festive cocktail is an essential party favor. “Just avoid holiday drinks made with eggs, butter or heavy cream, which are like two desserts with a side of alcohol,” says Cynthia Sass, RD. “Instead, reach for simple drinks with fewer ingredients, and consciously take your time sipping rather than gulping.”

Sip: Champagne (80 calories per glass)
Mulled wine (160 calories per glass)

Skip: Cosmopolitan with candy cane (273 calories per glass)
Hot buttered rum (240 cals/11g fat per mug)

Work off dessert!

The treat:
3 milk chocolate truffles: 220 calories
Burn it off!
45-minute cardio/sculpt workout video: 214 calories

The treat:
3 Christmas cookies: 360 calories
Burn it off!
45-minute spin class: 455 calories

The treat:
3 squares of peppermint bark: 200 calories
Burn it off!
35-minute brisk walk: 208 calories

The treat:
1 slice of coffee cake: 550 calories
Burn it off!
90 minutes of skiing: 568 calories

The treat:
1 slice of pecan pie: 503 calories
Burn it off!
1 hour of ice-skating: 500 calories

HEALTH.COM: How to Lighten Up Your Favorite Holiday Foods

Little bites add up

1 tablespoon of chocolate-chip cookie dough: 90 calories

1 small handful of mixed nuts: 100 calories

2 chocolate-dipped strawberries: 74 calories

2 Swiss cheese and spinach mini quiches: 116 calories

2 1-inch macarons: 70 calories

2 goat cheese and hot pepper jelly bites: 79 calories

2 peppermint malted milk balls: 68 calories

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