With the holiday season officially kicking off on Thursday, celebrity trainer Nichelle Hines knows many will be scrambling to enjoy the festivities while also hoping to stay on track with their exercise regimen.
That’s why Hines, who works as the Chief Ride Officer at Cycle House in Los Angeles — a go-to spot for many celebrities, including Jessica Alba, Nicole Kidman, and Madonna — is offering some helpful hints to help find the balance between food and fitness and avoid “mindless eating.”
“There are ways to make this holiday season active and not fall into the pitfalls and the traps of what tends to happen to most of us during that time,” she tells PEOPLE.
Here are five of Hines’ best tips ahead of Thanksgiving to ensure that people can have their cake — or turkey — and eat it too!
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1. Avoid drinking alcohol before your meal
The holidays are a popular time to indulge in alcoholic beverages, but according to Hines, refraining from drinking them before the big meal may help in the long run.
“Drinking leads to overeating so a good tip to keep you where you want to be is try not to drink before the meal,” she tells PEOPLE. “Once you’re a little tipsy, you kinda lose your inhibitions and then you get into that .”
For those really looking forward to some booze, Hines suggests an alternative plan.
“Hold off on the alcohol until the meal or save it for after you’ve eaten,” she says. “And if you are drinking during the meal, have something that you can sip, like red wine. Things that you can’t gulp.”
2. Eat a healthy breakfast and/or lunch beforehand
Thinking about not eating at all before Thanksgiving so you can indulge during the main meal? Think again, Hines says.
“One thing a lot of people tend to do is they don’t eat the whole day in the anticipation of the meal,” she explains. “The problem with that is then, you’re starving and we all know, it’s like going to the grocery store hungry.”
“If you’re waiting until 3, 4, 5 o’clock, you haven’t eaten all day, that’s another way you sort of dive-bomb into the starchy-fatty carbs,” she adds.
To avoid this problem, Hines suggests eating a healthy breakfast filled with proteins, complex carbohydrates, and some fats.
This Saturday at 5pm the beauty on my left @shaym is celebrating her birthday by hosting a charity ride for #together1heart @cyclehousela! There will be awesome swag bags containing gifts from the beauty on the right @jessicaalba from @honest and @sweatybetty and other great items. The bag alone is worth the price of admission! See you tomorrow to give back, show the birthday girl some love and get your sweat on! Link to sign up in my bio!
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3. Maintain a regular exercise and healthy eating routine
One of the best ways to ensure that you’re not going completely off-track with your health, Hines says, is by practicing a fitness routine — and following it, even on the holiday itself.
“If you can — if you’re not cooking everything — work out before you go,” she explains. “Try to earn those calories back.”
Hines also suggests challenging yourself to work out every day in the weeks leading up to the holidays and making healthy daily choices, such as skipping dessert, limiting alcohol intake, and choosing healthier options for lunch.
“If you’re cutting your calories in a helpful way , that meal doesn’t destroy you,” she says, before pointing out, “One meal is not going to change your life.”
“If you really are paying attention to your health and the one meal you’re indulging in is Thanksgiving, then it’s no problem,” she adds. “The question you have to ask yourself are you indulging leading up to the holidays?”
“It’s the holidays. Of course, you’re gonna have something, but if you can hold off until the meal, it will help you make a better decision,” Hines explains.
4. Get creative with your circumstances
Another way to stay on track is by getting the family involved and incorporating exercises even when you’re traveling.
“Workout at home, play games — there’s things you can do with your family that are really fun,” Hines says, noting that her family often plays a card game where each suit in the deck represents an easy exercise that everyone must complete.
“This is really fun, you can modify the exercise,” she explains. “It feels like a game, and not only are you connecting without your telephones and TVs, but it’s fun and it’s active. It promotes health and encourages the family to get into it together.”
“If there’s a way for you to create a good time for you and your family, I think that’s the best thing you can do,” she adds. “It’s all about unity and having a good time together.”
For those traveling, Hines suggests getting out of the car at rest stops, stretching out or taking walks on planes, and drinking lots of water while on flights.
“If you drink water, not only does it combat fatigue but it helps combat jet lag. It’s easier to adjust, you sleep better when you arrive where you’re going,” the celebrity trainer explains. “Water on an airplane is your absolute and total best friend.”
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5. Have a plan
When it comes to your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, Hines swears by two strategies: eating healthier options first and taking it slow.
“Focus your first place on proteins and healthy carbohydrates. It’s gonna make it more difficult for you to get those things that are worse for you,” she suggests. “If you focus on your protein and your vegetable-based carbs, you’re really gonna see a big difference and you’ll fill up faster.”
“And eat slow, there’s no rush,” Hines adds. “It takes twenty minutes for the brain to receive cues from your stomach that you’re full… I’m not saying don’t indulge, but how much are you going to indulge in?”
6. Don’t take yourself too seriously
For those who may fall off track or not maintain their goals during the holidays, Hines encourages self-love and forgiveness.
“If you mess up, the number one thing you can do is get back on the horse,” she says. “It’s one meal, it’s one day. If you focus on making sure it’s just that, then you will be able to survive it.”
“We say strength is in the struggle at Cycle House,” Hines adds. “If you end up in a struggle, you have no idea what you’re capable of. And as long as you know you’re rocking who you really are and know that this meal, this moment, doesn’t define you, that’s how you’re going to make a difference in your life.”