Healthy eating through the holidays

By | November 21, 2018

Holiday time is here again! So are the joys and challenges of holiday eating. The big challenge is to have fun at special occasions without jeopardizing some of the healthy practices you have worked on throughout the year.

Here are some tips to help you survive the holiday season.

Do not arrive hungry to the party! Skipping meals before a holiday party in an effort to save calories for the big party will only make you overeat. Eat a light meal or snack before arriving to the party. A snack or meal that is high in fiber and contains lean protein is ideal because it can help control your appetite and help you avoid overeating.

Choose the right plate. You are more likely to eat food that ends up on your plate. Thus, choosing a smaller plate will not only prevent you from filling your plate with more items then you really need, but it will also make the amount of food on your plate seem larger.

Be merry. Spread holiday cheer by spending time enjoying the company of others at the party. The more you talk, the less time you will spend eating.

Balance your plate. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with starch.

Bring something to the party. Offer to bring an appetizer, side, or dessert to the party. Not only will the host or hostess appreciate the help, but you’ll also have control over what goes into the dish.

Fill up on vegetables and fruits. Not only do these foods have plenty of vitamins and minerals, but they also contain fiber, which helps keep you full longer and may leave less room for other high-calorie foods.

Watch the liquid calories. For some, a holiday party is not complete without traditional drinks and cocktails. Beware that these drinks often contain a large number of calories. One cup of eggnog can set you back around 360 calories, while hot chocolate can contain around 200 calories. Alcoholic mixed drinks and punches can easily contain over 200 calories. Opt instead for a glass of sparkling water with a splash of your favorite juice or wine.

Be choosy. If you are at a buffet, scan the table before you enter the line. Choose small servings of the foods you want, but try not to return for seconds.

Food gifts. With the holidays come tins full of cookies and sweets. If you know that these will be trouble once you bring them home, open them up at work and pass them around for all to enjoy. If you are in the position of giving a gift to someone that is trying to eat healthy or lose weight, why not give them a non-food gift like a plant, balloons, or a healthy cookbook.

Be active. A short trip over the holidays doesn’t have to mean taking a vacation from your workout. Pack your sneakers or walking shoes and make a plan to fit in some activity each day.

Modifying the celebration

Look at the difference portion size can make.

FoodOriginal portionCaloriesNew portionCalories
Roasted turkey
(white meat, no skin)
7 ounces3803.5 ounces190
Cranberry sauce1/4 cup902 tablespoons45
Gravy1/4 cup1292 tablespoons64
Stuffing1/2 cup1181/4 cup59
Mashed butternut squash1/4 cup351/4 cup35
Whipped potato1/2 cup941/4 cup47
Vegetable salad1 cup251 cup25
Salad dressing1 tablespoon501 teaspoon16
Dinner roll170Omit0
Butter1 teaspoon45Omit0
Wine2 4-ounce glasses1701 4-ounce glass85
Pumpkin pie1/8 of 9-inch pie3161/16 of 9-inch pie158
Whipped cream2 tablespoons162Omit0
Coffee1 cup01 cup0
Coffee creamer2 tablespoons601 tablespoon30
Sugar2 teaspoons401 teaspoon20
Total calories1,784774
Calories saved = 1,010

Harvard Health Blog