Eating Healthy for the Holidays

Holiday Party Table

Holiday time can be difficult, with lots of temptations and calorie-laden feasts. Between the holiday sweets lying around the office, preparing the holiday meals, and then attending the holiday parties and dinners, it seems almost impossible to avoid putting on holiday weight. But, just because you’re trying to eat healthfully, doesn’t mean that you need to avoid the festivities or accept the extra pounds. With a little planning, it is possible to maintain your weight during the holiday season.

  1. Watch your portions! Divide your plate in half. Fill one half with vegetables. Divide the remaining half of your plate in half again. Fill one part with protein and the remaining part with the starch at the meal.
  2. Prioritize. Holiday meals usually have lots of foods that you will find appealing. But are there foods that specifically define the holiday for you, i.e., candied yams or honey glazed ham? Pass on the usual calorically expensive fare like chips and dip, and opt for the holiday specific food as your treat at the meal.
  3. Avoid skipping meals. Though we are sometimes tempted to “save calories”, this tactic can lead to overeating. In fact, it may even be helpful to eat something healthy before you head out to a meal, such as a Greek yogurt or a small nutrition bar, in order to curb your appetite when high-calorie foods are abundant.
  4. Dessert is not a meal. It is a supplement to the end of a balanced meal. Try to choose the fruit or sorbet option. If that dense chocolate cake is calling your name, take a small piece, but then stop. It is ok to treat yourself (as long as it is in moderation), and there is no point in feeling guilty when you are eating something you love. Just remind yourself that there will be even more holiday eating just around the corner.
  5. Move more. Since you will be eating more during the holidays, increase your physical activity. Go out for a stroll after a big meal or hit up an exercise class the morning before a holiday dinner.
  6. Watch what you’re drinking. Don’t waste your calories on beverages. Avoid sodas and juices, and beware of alcohol. Alcohol not only contains empty calories, but it can also further stimulate the appetite. I would never tell you to abstain completely because that's not realistic. But choose vodka soda, wine or a light beer over eggnog and alternate any alcoholic beverage with a full glass of water. A good festive alternative is some sparkling water with a lemon twist – sparkling water has zero calories.
  7. Make healthy choices when they're available. Try to choose the steamed or roasted vegetables over the green bean casserole. Choose a baked potato or rice over stuffing.
  8. Conversation is calorie free! Talk to the people around you and slow down while you’re eating. If the holiday party is buffet style, don’t rush straight for the food table. Greet your friends and family, and settle in before even looking at the food. Remember, these meals tend to be long. Rather than inhaling your food and then going back for more, try to delay your start and then make your plate last the whole meal.
  9. Be a host(ess) with the most(ess). If you’re making the meal, provide some healthy alternatives like baked sweet potatoes, instead of candied yams. At the start of the meal, pass the food around once and then place the serving dishes on a side table. This way, you will be less likely to mindlessly take more food during the meal. And don’t forget, you can send home leftovers with your guests - make sure to stock up on some plastic containers before the party. If you are not the host, but the dinner is pot-luck, bring a healthy dish that you know you can eat, like a big salad or a raw veggie platter with a yogurt or cottage cheese based dip. Or substitute an unhealthy ingredient in a classic dish with a healthy one like Greek yogurt for heavy cream, stevia or unsweetened applesauce for refined white sugar, or even mashed cauliflower for white potatoes.
  10. Maintain. Thanksgiving through New Years is a very difficult time when it comes to eating. Don’t be too hard on yourself and expect to lose weight during this time period or you may be in for disappointment. Rather, focus your efforts on maintaining your weight during the holidays, and on enjoying time with your friends and family.

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.