We all know that this time of year is very difficult when it comes to staying on track with our diets. With all the holiday dinners and parties and the cookie baking, it probably seems near impossible. Don't worry though; nutritional expert Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., has some simple tips to prevent those holiday pounds from adding up.

Never arrive at a holiday party famished. Eat a small low carb meal like salmon and salad with olive oil dressing or a filling snack like veggies and guacamole before you go out. It will help fill you up and stabilize your blood sugar, the key to keeping you from consuming unnecessary calories.

Schedule in fitness. Exercise should be a part of your regular routine like brushing your teeth in the morning, so even when life gets crazy like it does during this time of year, it is important to make room for it in your calendar like you would doctor's appointments and work meetings.

Stay hydrated. Carrying a water bottle and sipping from it frequently during any holiday event will keep you from overeating.

Plan ahead what you are going to eat. First thing you should put on your plate is a protein like chicken, shrimp, or fish. It will help keep you feeling full. Then choose high fiber carbohydrates like vegetables.

"You can indulge in one carb of your choice (potato, stuffing, rice), but plan which one in advance so that you don't go overboard. It is important not to throw caution to the wind," Heimowitz warned.

"I always tell people if it is a buffet, create your own dish and stick to that dish. Fill the plate once and then you are done. Subconscious picking can lead to extra calories," she said.

Keep to one alcoholic drink. It is not just the food that you have to worry about during the holidays. When we drink alcohol, our resolve tends to fly right out the window.

Heimowitz also has great advice if you need to always keep your hands busy at social gatherings: "I always have a mineral water with a lemon in hand to keep busy so you really have to think about what you are eating."

Avoid high sugar desserts. Sugar is the biggest culprit when it comes to overeating. When your blood sugar crashes, you tend to lose control. According to Heimowitz, if you can avoid this, then you have mastered a big roadblock.

She also recommends that when you can, bring your own healthy options to the party. "You can still enjoy the sweet sensation by making your own holiday cookies with any type of sugar substitute," she explained.

Other healthy holiday alternatives like Triple Berry Martinis and Lemony Chicken, Shrimp and Vegetable Kebabs can also be found at Atkins.com.

"A celebratory meal has always been a traditional part of the holidays not only in our country, but around the world. And there is nothing wrong with that," she said. "You can still enjoy yourself; just set healthy boundaries. Emphasize more the connecting with people and not the food. The food should be in the background of the holiday not the focus."

----------

Read more Goal Getter for healthy eating, weight loss and more.