The holidays. The perfect time to shop 'til you drop and eat 'til to pop.
But overindulgence, whether on food or drink, can turn your holiday merriment to misery.
"The holidays are just two days, not a whole month," said Connie Crawley, a food, health and nutrition specialist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. "Just plan one or two splurge days, and don't overeat over the whole month."
Family dinners and office parties make it hard to maintain your regular eating habits. Crawley offers these tips:
* Don't go to a party hungry.
"You will eat high-fat, high-sugar foods because you're attracted to that kind of food when you are hungry," Crawley said. "Eat some fruit or drink a glass of milk before you go. It will help curb your hunger."
* If it's buffet, be a gourmet, not a glutton.
"Survey the table and choose foods that are really special and that you will enjoy eating," Crawley said. "Don't just eat everything in sight."
* Don't stand and eat.
"If you stand and eat, you never really feel full," she said. "Fix your plate, then move away from the table and find a place to sit and eat. Also, eat with utensils, rather than just finger food. You will feel more satisfied."
* Avoid too much alcohol.
"I caution people about downing more than one or two drinks," Crawley said. "It lowers your judgement and you don't realize how much you're eating. Plus, you get the munchies, and the calories in alcohol drinks add up quickly."
Look for low-calorie sodas or seltzer instead.
* If you're in charge of the party, have bags and wraps out so you can wrap leftovers and send them home with guests.
"If you have them around, you'll be tempted to eat them just to get rid of them," she said. "So send them away with guests. Or freeze them and bring them out later in portions or for another party."
* Even the best-laid holiday diet plans can get sidetracked. Don't despair.
"Some people try to cut way back on their food after they overeat," Crawley said. "That just sets you up for failure."
* Don't go from feast to famine or you will get so ravenous you'll just overeat again.
"It's better to go back to your regular eating pattern. Then if you want to cut back or make better eating habits, make changes one at a time," Crawley said.
* Get active. A walk or swim will leave you feeling invigorated and less stressed.
"This could be the beginning of your New Year's resolution," she said. "In the long run, you'll be less stressed, more energized and more noble. You don't want to go into the new year feeling miserable."
* If drink, not food, was your overindulgence, rehydration is the key.
"Get a lot of noncaloric fluids the next day," Crawley said. "It's the dehydration that makes you get a headache. Get plenty of fluids into your system."
Getting active will help clear your head, too.
"Remember to eat bland, calming foods and don't do it again!" Crawley said. "Make that one of your resolutions."
Drinking beer will leave you feeling bloated, but don't be fooled. You still need eight glasses of fluid.
"Drinking water is preferable," she said. "Avoid caffeine- containing drinks. They will just make your dehydration worse."
This holiday season, eat, drink and be merry -- in moderation.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)