A Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating

November 21, 2011

When we think about the holidays, images of roasted turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and other traditional goodies are among the first to appear. Our mouths water, our stomachs rumble, but oh, how our waistlines suffer! From Thanksgiving to New Years Eve, we face a variety of edible temptations that can lead to quick and unhealthy weight gain. Luckily, healthy holiday eating is not only possible, it can be painless as well!

First, forget about dieting and trying to lose weight. Dieting during the holidays will only prove to be stressful and overwhelming. Continue to follow your usual (and hopefully healthy) eating habits and exercise routine instead. Drink plenty of water, eat regular and balanced meals, and get enough sleep every night. The most important goal is to maintain your present weight during the holiday months.

Second, portion control your meals. Place a little bit of all your favorite foods on one plate to avoid overindulging. Politely pass on second helpings and limit high calorie beverages such as punch, alcohol, and eggnog. Also, take time to enjoy your meal – take small bites and eat slowly so you’ll know exactly when you’re full.

Third, take control! Suggest healthier dishes or offer to bring some of your own Рyou can cut down on empty calories in a variety of ways. Avoid eating the dark meat and skin of the turkey, as they both carry more fat and cholesterol than skinless white meat. You can make your own low-fat gravy with a rich broth of onion, celery, and herbs and by skimming the fat off the top after refrigerating. You can also keep stuffing low in fat by using saut̩ed onions, celery, and herbs as well as egg substitutes and low-sodium broth. Stir fry or saut̩ vegetables with healthy oils, and then top them with a lemon-butter mixture instead of creamy sauces. Finally, serve healthy appetizers such as hummus and carrots, fat-free ranch dressing and celery sticks, and salsa with whole wheat tortilla chips.

If holiday eating still has you a bit nervous, remember the 80/20 rule: Eat well throughout the season 80% of the time and then treat yourself to your favorite foods for the other 20%. This will allow you to enjoy while not overindulging. Happy Holidays!


  1. Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center. 2011. Holiday Eating. Accessed at http://www.columbus.va.gov/features/Holiday_Eating.asp on September 24, 2011.
  2. Gannett Health Services at Cornell University. 2011. Holiday Eating: Nutrition for Breaks and Holidays. Accessed at http://www.gannett.cornell.edu/topics/nutrition/info/holiday.cfm on September 24, 2011.
  3. Jewkes, Melanie D. 2008. Healthy Holiday Eating: Tips and Recipes. Accessed at http://extension.usu.edu/duchesne/files/uploads/FCS/healthy%20holiday%20eating_nov%2008.pdf on September 24, 2011.

By: Julia Canfield

Entry Filed under: Nutrition,Stress. .

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