11/23/2010 01:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2010: 10 Good Things to Focus on This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving Day: "Oh, what the heck? I'll just have second helpings of mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy! After all, it's Thanksgiving!"

Day after Thanksgiving: "Leftovers! I'll have the whole meal again! Wouldn't want to waste all this food!"

First (of many) holiday parties: "Ah ... just one more cookie. The holidays are just getting started ... I'll watch myself at the next party."

And so on ... until New Year's Day 2011: "I'm starting the year 10 pounds heavier! Now what?"

In our culture, so many celebrations center around food. That's not a bad thing in and of itself. But it's easy to get carried away and justify too much self-indulgence. A treat or two? Fine ... it is the holiday season, and time to splurge -- a bit. But you can't have a 10 treats a day and get away with it, weight-wise or health-wise.

When I first started eating in a healthy, plant-based way 12 years ago to help me heal from advanced breast cancer, I wondered how I would handle holiday gatherings, with all of their sweets and goodies. Looking back, I realize this is when I started getting more out of the holiday season.

Here are some tips to shift your focus away from all the tempting treats you'll be surrounded by at this time of the year:

1. At a party, really engage in a conversation and listen. Keep the focus on people, not food, and really listen to and ask questions of the person you're standing beside. You'll have such a better time!

2. Bring a deliciously healthy snack, like hummus and veggie sticks or a fruit crisp, and make this your go-to dish.

3. Make some popcorn, string it and make beautiful garlands or wreaths to decorate your house. If you're tempted to eat it while making, no big deal!

4. Go caroling with a group of friends and serve naturally sweetened hot cider.

5. Make snow angels or have a snowball fight. Free, fun and you'll burn a few calories from the treats you do have.

6. Visit a nursing home to see relatives (or even seniors you don't know).

7. Read holiday or other special stories to your kids after dinner in lieu of dessert.

8. Keep your hands busy with a gift wrapping or holiday craft making session.

9. Take a walk in the frosty air, or look up at the night sky.

10. Focus on gifts that help people stay fit: a pair of hiking boots, exercise gear, a gym membership or a cookbook full of healthy recipes.

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe or non-food holiday idea you'd like to share? I'd love to hear from you.

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