FORGET CRUSHING 150 wall balls in a row or destroying an Ironman. It’s being able to say no to mounds of creamy mashed potatoes, rich, soft cheese, and fresh-baked pies and cookies that’s the real test of a man’s fortitude.

Well, not this holiday. This time, we’ve got your back. We talked to some of the top experts in the food and fitness game, and have formulated a foolproof guide to get you in and out of those decadent holiday gatherings without packing on pounds.

1. Pre-game the system

Numero uno on the list to surviving holiday meals is arriving with a belly full of nutritious yet appetite-killing food.

“Eat before, if you can,” says Adam Kelinson, nutritional consultant and author of The Athlete’s Plate. High-quality lean meats like skinless chicken and beef or pork loin are good choices. A 2010 University of Toronto study even suggests that downing a shake with 20–40g of whey protein and water before the party may help you feel full, potentially reducing the amount you eat.

“Also, include some healthy fats and complex carbs to keep hunger pangs down,” Kelinson adds. Top choices: avocados, lentils, and pistachios. The latter is particularly good—pistachios are almost 90% unsaturated fat, and are a source of filling fiber.