It's a fact of life in my house that the countdown to the holidays begins with the first crisp day of fall. The holiday season means time with friends and family, time off from work, and sweets galore. But starting this year, we're trying to enjoy the season a little healthier and a little simpler. Here are a few tips we're working on. With any luck, these will help us enjoy this year's holidays even more than last year.

Tip 1: Make exercise a new holiday tradition

I very rarely make time for exercise during the holidays, but I know I should. More exercise means feeling better physically and mentally. An easy fix is to get active in other ways. This can be as simple as shopping in person rather than online--walking from store to store burns more calories than clicking from your couch. Or, with the entire family under one roof, we plan to take more time for walks with relatives. Seizing the morning is also a good way to knock out gym time before evening parties.

Tip 2: Reduce stress

Holiday stress has a way of creeping in no matter what, but there are easy ways to keep it from getting the best of you. Step one is to get more rest. For me, a good night's sleep is a cure-all. So is drinking enough water to stay hydrated. For added relief, fill the house with relaxing seasonal candles and scents. The more balanced your body is, the better you'll be able to handle your holiday nerves. Plus, nothing says festive like the smell of gingerbread candles wafting throughout the house.

Tip 3: Eat smarter 

This is a biggie. My eyes are bigger than my stomach, and the temptation is to eat two of everything. I hope this year to get a head start on that New Year's resolution by eating just a little smarter in December.

This means being more selective and taking in smaller portions. The bonus here is that this also allows you sample the menu without busting a button. Drinking water in between bites also helps you feel more full.

Keeping leftovers around leads to snacking in the middle of the night. This year, donate the leftovers to your local food bank.

Tip 4: Indulge healthier

What do cookies, pies and cocktails have in common? Besides being delicious, they contain a fair amount of sugar. By using Truvia® natural sweetener, however, I can make my favorite holiday staples and feel good about serving it to my friends and family.

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Sugar Cookies with Truvía® Baking Blend

Made from the leaves of the stevia plant, Truvia® natural sweetener is America’s #1 natural, zero-calorie sweetener. It’s perfect for sweetening up your coffee or an entire meal, and now that Truvia® Brown Sugar Blend is available, it’s an essential holiday ingredient in my baked goods.

The only thing better than holiday cookies are the seasonal cocktails. Using Truvia® simple syrup, a mix of Truvia® natural sweetener and water, is an easy-yet-tasty way to remove extra calories from your cocktails. Mulled wine, gingerbread martinis, Irish coffees and more. It’s a simple switch to make.

Tip 5: Simplify

For me, holiday decorating, shopping and travel are the only things keeping me from fully enjoying myself during the season. This year, our family's hoping to have a little more fun by trimming the proverbial fat. We'll decorate less, buy fewer (but better, more thoughtful) gifts and cut the holiday chore list down to the bare essentials. By doing less, you can do more with the time and resources you have, and it gives you the chance to spend more time focusing on the important things: friends, family and shared experiences.

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