6 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

Food is usually at the center of holiday gatherings with loved ones. Unfortunately, many festive dishes aren’t very healthy, and the abundance of social gatherings makes it easy to overindulge between Halloween and New Year’s. According to the National Institutes of Health, people gain about one to two pounds due to holiday eating.

Enjoying the foods you eat doesn’t necessarily have to come with added weight. Keep your diet on track through a combination of mindful eating and a couple of strategies.

Create Healthier Versions of Your Favorites
If you are cooking or bringing food, make the recipe healthier with slight modifications. For example, by refrigerating gravy, you can harden and skim the fat right off. Turkey can be made healthy and lean by not eating the skin. Your mashed potatoes can be made healthier by using skim milk and chicken broth instead of whole milk and butter. Substitutions cut down on the fat and calories in your favorite holiday dishes, and you usually can’t taste a difference.

Schedule Time to Exercise
The holidays throw off our regular schedules. Make sure to plan time for exercise, which can help prevent weight gain and offset excess eating. Try taking brisk walks a couple of times a day or make it a family activity after a meal.

Weigh Yourself
Periodically weigh yourself at least once or twice a week. Self-monitoring is an important tool to make sure you don’t just blindly add on the pounds. Many individuals gain weight and then spend half or most of the next year trying to lose it. As the weight accumulates over the years, you go from one BMI category to the next.

Don’t Skip Meals
When you know a big meal is coming, avoid skipping a meal to try to “make room.” This can lead to overeating. Try eating a light protein snack such as veggies and hummus or fruit and cheese before your meal so you are less tempted to overindulge.

Plan Your Meal
You might go for seconds, or even thirds, during a big holiday meal; however, overeating leads to weight gain and that awful feeling of being too full afterward. Try starting your meal with vegetables and salad, which can help you eat fewer calories overall and make you feel fuller faster. Also, make sure to eat slowly. Savoring each bite gives your body enough time to tell your brain that you’re satisfied. If you accidentally overeat during one meal, keep it light for the next meal.

Limit Alcoholic and Sugary Drinks
The social environments that make the holiday season so special also make it easy to over do it on drinks. Keep calories in mind when you’re drinking. When you add your beverage calories to your food calories, you might be surprised at how large the number can grow.

The holidays are a special time with friends and family. Paying attention to your eating habits over the holidays can help ensure your weight goals don’t get off track.


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Written by Dr. Joyce Paulson

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