Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

Holiday desserts

Guest post by Jenny Babino, RD, LD. Courtesy of the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The holidays are upon us, bringing much-anticipated celebrations and bountiful amounts of tempting food. Staying healthy during the holiday season helps keep you happy as the New Year rolls in. We’ve got a few tips for you to keep in mind as you celebrate:

  • Eat regular meals. Eating as normally as possible during the holidays can help prevent overindulging, which will help keep your calories in-check. If you find yourself ravenous before a party, choose a protein and carbohydrate-fueled snack to help curb your hunger — fruit with an ounce of cheese or a cheese stick; ½ cup raw vegetables with hummus; a few whole-grain crackers with 1 tablespoon peanut butter; or yogurt with ½ cup of high-fiber cereal or fruit on top.
  • Do a “walk-around” at the party before you partake. Before you begin serving yourself, survey the spread. Skip the same-old, same-old party fare, and instead use your calories on special items that you can only get this time of year (such as those that are a family tradition). Then, add in some lower-calorie items like fruit and veggies to fill you up and add nutrients, fiber and color to your plate. Choose fruits and vegetables to keep your plate balanced.
  • Balance caloric beverages with water. Liquid calories are still calories. Some fancy holiday drinks can pack 200+ calories per 1 cup serving, including egg nog (223 calories), hot chocolate made with whole milk (260 calories), and mixed alcoholic beverages such as hot buttered rum (316 calories). When you can, opt for lower calorie beverages such as light egg nog, hot chocolate made with low-fat or skim milk, or a glass of wine/serving of light beer to help keep your calories in-check. Also, try to make a habit of alternating between an alcoholic drink and water (seltzer with a lime wedge, for example) to keep you amply hydrated and help prevent overconsumption.
  • Take your time. Did you know that it takes 15-20 minutes for your brain to register that you’ve eaten? So, the faster you eat, the more likely you are to overeat. Try to pace yourself and wait 10 minutes before getting up and serving yourself more food. Take a moment to tune in to your body and ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” before getting anything else to eat.
  • Continue with your exercise regimen. Exercise is a huge component of weight maintenance, stress reduction and overall health, making it even more vital during the holiday season. Any type of exercise is better than none at all — even a brisk walk for 10-15 minutes once or twice a day is enough to boost your metabolism and provide health benefits. (Be sure to get a go-ahead from your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.).
  • And most importantly — enjoy yourself! Take time to relax, soak up all the joys of the season and cherish the time you spend with friends and family.

For more healthy meal planning tips during the holiday season, be sure to visit these holiday-centric pages from the American Heart AssociationObesity Action Coalition, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Do you have a special holiday treat that you make only at this time of the year? Take a picture and share it with us on the Catching Health Facebook page.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.