Tips for healthy holiday eating

It’s holiday time again, and the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can be filled with temptation. From office parties to family celebrations, the holidays are times of sharing food and entertaining.

You can keep your holiday party traditions on track without sacrificing taste. Here are some tips to help enjoy the season and stay healthy.

  1. Plan ahead. Try not to arrive at the party hungry. You are less tempted to over-indulge if you eat a light snack before getting there.
  2. Eat structured meals. Skipping meals leads to overeating later or snacking on bits and pieces of high calorie foods that have more calories than the meal yet leave you hungry.
  3. Budget wisely. Don’t eat everything at the feast. Prioritize favorites and spend calories on the foods you love.
  4. Be careful with beverages. Limit alcohol since it is high in calories and can stimulate your appetite. Always consume alcohol with food, and avoid sweet wines and liqueurs.  Try club soda, sparkling water or water with a slice of fruit.
  5. Make room for fruits and vegetables. Adding fruits and vegetables into your eating routine provides you essential nutrients to keep you healthy and fiber to help you feel full. Plus, these foods are low in calories.
  6. Distance yourself from the food table. You’re more likely to overeat if you are next to the food. Remember you are at the event to socialize first. Once you see all the goodies, it is difficult to resist.
  7. Make recipe adjustments. Reduce the fat in your favorite holiday recipes and offer to bring one to the holiday party. Your food will have less calories and fat, yet have the same great taste and texture. Use the lower-fat versions of sour cream or cream cheese, or substitute with yogurt or evaporated milk. Substitute whole milk with almond or coconut milk, which still have similar consistencies to whole milk.

Following these tips can help you navigate the parties, but what if you end up overeating? Remember, tomorrow is a new day and get back on track without calling yourself “bad.”  Food should never define us as people. Also, no one gains 20 pounds overnight. Weight gain occurs from a steady accumulation of overeating.

If you eat too much today, eat a little less tomorrow. Exercise also helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating.

Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer.  If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge once in a while. Remember a holiday feast is one day, the season lasts all month. Happy holidays!

To learn more about nutrition services at Anne Arundel Medical Center, visit

Caldwell Shackelford Photo3

By Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford, nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them call 443-481-5555.

Originally published Dec. 10, 2015. Last updated Nov. 15, 2018.

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