Tami's Tips

Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays

By Tami Lyon, MPH, RD
November 26, 2015

Around roll the holidays, once again. And with them, come plates of delicious holiday food and cups of holiday drinks, from the Thanksgiving turkey, to marshmallow topped yams, to my personal favorite, pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Salad for Healthy Holidays

Here, I’m happy to share some of my favorite strategies to avoid this unfortunately common occurrence, and enjoy healthy holidays.

  1. Eat throughout the day (and definitely don’t skip breakfast!). 

    While it may be tempting to “save” all of your calories for the big holiday meal, it ends up being counterproductive. By letting your body get to a point of serious hunger, you’re setting yourself up to eat too quickly and too much. Instead, show up at your holiday celebration with a mild appetite by eating light, protein and fiber-rich meals throughout the day. Make sure to snack before the big feast as well—that way, you’ll be able to comfortably wait 30 minutes before hitting the appetizers, and you’re much less likely to overdo it.

  2. Wait 15-30 minutes before you start eating appetizers and drinking alcohol. 

    Food is an important part of a holiday celebration, so it can be incredibly difficult to hold off. But doing so will pay off by helping you to eat less and eat healthier. Fill your belly by drinking a glass of sparkling water before having an alcoholic beverage, and socialize a bit before heading toward the appetizers.

  3. Think before you eat. 

    Evaluate the food options before picking up your fork. Be picky, and even create a mental ranking of all the foods available, appetizers through dessert. Then, serve yourself only the items you love and refrain from piling your plate. Instead, add only a few items at a time and try to include at least one vegetable-based appetizer and two vegetable side dishes. Limit yourself to one serving (yes, you can do it!) of your seasonal favorites; after all, the benefit of holiday foods is that you you’ll be able to eat them again in a year. Additionally, skip the foods you encounter every day—you can get those at any regular old party.

  4. Offer to bring or prepare a low-calorie appetizer and dinner side dish. 

    Not only could this salvage your own healthy lifestyle, but it will also be a savior to many other quietly-health-conscious guests. Find a vegetable based recipe, such as crudités with low-calorie dip or veggie rolls as appetizers. For Thanksgiving dinner, extra mixed greens salads or low-fat green beans or broccoli compliment any menu.

  5. Sit facing away from the food.

    This includes appetizers and beverages. Our eyes play a big role in our eating patterns, and we are more likely to eat if we see food. If you do find yourself sitting next to a bowl of snacks or a plate of appetizers, take the initiative to move it out of sight (and out of mind), even if it involves asking those around you. It’s okay to let them know that you are paying attention to your eating this holiday season. If your celebration opts to eat buffet style, make an effort to select a seat facing away from the food. If your group is eating family style, try to sit where there is little room to place a serving dish in front or next to you.

    Healthy Plate Composition

  6. Consider the composition of your plate. 

    If possible, start out with vegetables, filling half of your plate with leafy greens and cooked vegetable dishes.  Use the remaining half for protein dishes (i.e. turkey) and starches, such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and stuffing. You can have them all, but instead of going big and going home overstuffed, savor smaller portions and try to stick to one plateful of food.

Of course, tis the season for enjoyment and a bit of indulgence, so don’t spend too much energy counting calories. But listen to your body and don’t overeat, and not only will you prevent that seemingly inevitable holiday weight gain, but you’ll also avoid the uncomfortable post-holiday meal bloat. Healthy holidays!

*Individual Results May Vary