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Healthy Holiday Eating

December 16, 2008

The holiday season is a time of celebration with family and friends. However, for many it can be a time of overeating and weight gain. Holiday eating can result in gaining several extra pounds according to the National Institutes of Health. To help you make it through the holidays this season focus on a healthy balance of food, activity and fun. Try implementing these simple ideas so you can stay healthy through the holiday season.

•  Be realistic. Instead of trying to lose weight during the holidays, focus on maintaining your current weight.

•  Maintain your exercise routine and add some extra exercise. Exercise helps relieve stress and prevent weight gain. You can add 10-15 minute walks twice daily to help partially offset increased holiday eating.

•  Don't skip meals. Try eating a light snack of raw vegetables or a fruit before leaving for a party. You will be less tempted to over-indulge.

•  Survey party buffets before filling your plate. Choose your favorite foods and skip your least favorite. Eat small portions of food.

•  Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Enjoy your favorite holiday treats while eating small portions. Take second helpings of salads or vegetables if you are still hungry. Sit down and eat slowly.

•  Offer to bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering.

•  If you overeat at one meal go light on the next. It takes 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week) above your normal intake to gain one pound. 

•  Be careful with beverages. Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating. Alcohol calories are stored as fat. Choose mineral water mixed with fruit juice, flavored waters, club or diet sodas.

•  Enjoy friends and family. Although food can be a big part of the season, it doesn't have to be the focus. Holidays are a time to reunite with good friends and family, to share laughter and cheer and to give thanks. Take the focus off foods and focus more on the reason for the season.

•  Practice healthy holiday cooking by preparing dishes lower in fat and calories. Incorporate some of these simple cooking tips in your recipes to make them healthier.
    -Dressing - use less bread and more onions, garlic, celery and vegetables. Add cranberries or apples. Flavor with vegetable broth.
    -Gravy -refrigerate gravy to harden fat. Skim off fat and save 56 grams of fat per cup.
    -Quick Holiday Nog - 4 bananas, 1 ½ cups skim or soymilk, 1 ½ cups plain nonfat yogurt, ¼ tsp rum extract and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Top with nutmeg
    -Desserts - make a crustless pumpkin pie. Substitute 2 egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. In cheesecakes replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk. Top cake with fresh fruit, or fruit sauce instead of frosting.

by Liliane Balbach, M.S., R.D.