Eating Healthy During the Holidays

Christmas table served for a family dinner (detail)

During the busy holiday season, counting calories is often the last thing on your mind, especially with so many delicious treats available to enjoy! Even after the holidays are over, it can still be hard to get back on track if you’ve been overindulging.Here are some tips on how to make good choices throughout the holiday season without feeling deprived:

  • Keep it steady: Eat healthy, normal sized meals. Don’t skimp on breakfast or lunch to “leave room” for the big holiday meal – otherwise you’ll arrive starving and overeat.
  • Keep it moving: Try to maintain your normal exercise schedule as much as you can throughout the holidays, or find other ways to stay active (like walking through the mall for gifts rather than shopping online).
  • Make a plan: Write a proactive food diary, meaning that you list out what you will eat rather than what you did
  • Bring the gift of healthy options: If you aren’t hosting and don’t have control of the menu, make a healthy side dish like mashed cauliflower or steamed vegetables to share. Not only will you be giving yourself at least one guaranteed healthy option, you’ll be helping out the host!
  • Take it one appetizer at a time: Don’t hang out near the appetizer table. Take one appetizer on a napkin and walk away, to resist the urge to keep nibbling.
  • Use the salad dish for everything: Often when faced with a table or buffet full of delicious foods, we just keep adding on until the plate is full, even if it’s way more than our stomachs can handle. Use the smaller salad dish for your food and you’ll keep your portions down. And wait 10 minutes before getting seconds to see if you’re truly still hungry.
  • Don’t waste calories on foods you don’t really love: The holidays bring lots of indulgences, so don’t waste calories on something just because it’s there. If molded salad isn’t really your thing, skip it.
  • At the same time, don’t deprive yourself of your favorites: Staring at the stuffing you love – but swore off – all meal long is not only frustrating, but also a quick route to overindulging on something else later to compensate. If there’s an indulgent holiday food that you look forward to every year, by all means have some.
  • Cocktails count! Don’t forget that holiday drinks like eggnog, and alcohol in general, comes with a lot of calories. And the alcohol can sometimes lead us to make even more poor food choices. Try to keep the number of cocktails you drink to a minimum, or at least alternate them with a big glass of water.
  • Don’t beat yourself up about last night’s meal: No matter how prepared you are, the holidays are a festive time and it’s easy to get carried away. Don’t waste time or energy feeling bad about what, or how much you ate last night – it’s far more effective to simply acknowledge the slip up and recommit yourself to making healthier choices at the next meal.

For more tips, see my video on Eating Holiday Foods Without Sabotaging Your Health.

Jason-Machowsky-200-240Jason Machowsky is a sports dietitian, registered clinical exercise physiologist, and certified strength and conditioning specialist at the Tisch Performance Center. He has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from Columbia University, and has authored a book on nutrition and wellness.

Topics: Featured, Nutrition
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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