Healthy Habits for the Holidays

The holidays are a challenging time for those who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Holidays usually involve lots of specialty foods, baked goods, high calorie drinks, social events, traveling, and family time. A realistic goal is to maintain your weight during the holiday season. Listed below are some strategies to help you achieve this goal.

  • Eat a small meal or balanced snack before attending a party or social event (i.e. ½ turkey sandwich, 1 fruit + 1 oz. cheese, 1 cup vegetables soup).
  • Bring a healthy dish to the party and this will give you one good option to choose from. Always go home empty-handed.
  • Keep minimal baked goods on hand. Only bake enough for the festivity or to give away.
  • Limit the specialty foods to the actual holiday. Remember that the holiday is only 1 day. Do not celebrate all week or month.
  • Eat a large salad before meals to help curb your appetite.
  • Make healthy recipe substitutions when possible. For example, instead of using heavy cream, try fat free evaporated skim milk. When baking, replace oil with a fruit puree (i.e. pumpkin, applesauce) or use Splenda instead of sugar.
  • Websites with healthy recipes:,
  • Plan before you eat. Check out the “buffet” table first to “pre-plan” your choices.
  • Do not sit or stand next to the buffet table. This will help avoid mindless eating and preventing you from returning for seconds.
  • Choose the smaller plate and set it up so there is space in between each food item.
  • Limit the high fat appetizers such as chips, dips, or deep-fried wings, etc. Fill up on low calorie raw vegetables and fruit.
  • Choose only the foods you really want and enjoy rather than trying some of everything offered. Ask yourself, “is this food really worth eating?”
  • Trim the fat from the meat. Each tablespoon of fat you trim off contains 100 calories. Try to choose items that are grilled or baked. Avoid fried foods.
  • Savor every bite. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you are full. Eating slowly reduces your chances of overeating.
  • Become a “taster.” If you do not like what is on your plate, do not feel you have to finish eating it. Just leave it on the plate.  Remember: You control what you eat.
  • Drink more water! Water is a healthy, no-calorie beverage.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, which is 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men. If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, try to have it after the meal. Alcohol increases hunger and lowers your willpower. Watch out for eggnog (1 cup = 350 calories, 19 grams fat).
  • Stay active! Sign up for a 5K or fitness walk or other event to keep your mind focused on fitness goals. Add extra steps to your day by using the stairs or distant parking. Put on holiday music and dance to the tunes.
  • Celebrate and focus on what the holidays are really about – spending time with family and friends! Find creative activities or ways to get your family and friends to play a game or be active instead of revolving it around food.
  • Make a goal with a friend to maintain weight or exercise together during the holidays. This way you have a valuable support buddy.
  • Keep your stress under control by using relaxation techniques to limit your stress and emotional eating. Deep breathing, meditation, journaling, or going for a brisk walk is a great way to reduce stress!

These are just some great ways to help you stay on track during the holidays. Remember that one meal will not greatly affect your weight or overall health. However, if you choose to overindulge frequently or stop exercising completely over the holidays, it may lead to unwanted weight gain. If you need extra assistance during this time frame, please reach out to your dietitian for extra accountability and an individualized plan.

Enjoy these holiday recipes that includes healthy substitutes:

Chicken Sausage and Herb Stuffing

Skinny Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Mary Nocera, RD