Your How-To Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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Healthy Holiday Eating TipsThe holiday season is almost here, and for many, that means one thing: you’re going to eat. The five-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s presents an almost endless string of opportunities to eat, eat, and eat. Having some simple tips at hand to help you stick to your healthy eating throughout the holiday celebrations is essential.

It’s nothing new to hear people complain about how much weight they gain over the holidays. Everyone says they put on 10–15 pounds because they overate on a few occasions. Although research has shown that most people put on almost no weight at all—less than 10% of us gain as much as five pounds—it doesn’t take away from the feelings of complete fullness and guilt.

Even though you might not actually put on weight over the holidays, there are ways you can feel better about your dietary choices. Much of the food that’s common across American tables from Thanksgiving until New Year’s is heavy, creating exaggerated fullness and bloating. And I admit it: like many others, I, on a few occasions, might try to get a little more in me than my stomach would like (though my taste buds are always happy).

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to completely eliminate a binge eating session or a few major holiday meals, so don’t stress too much over them. Just remember to maintain a healthy diet the rest of the time, limit unhealthy snacks, and be aware of portion sizes.

Having said all that, keeping your diet in check during the celebrations is easier said than done, especially if you’re counting calories and worrying about what has been added to the yams. So instead of inspecting every last detail of your diet during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s whirlwind, just follow the four easy tips to holiday eating in this simple how-to guide:

1. Plan Low-Calorie Meals Ahead of Big Celebrations

Planning is essential during the holidays in order to keep your diet on track and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at your schedule and take account of the events that present the biggest dangers to your diet. If you know you’re likely going to be having a drink or two, some cake, and maybe a heavier meal than normal, prepare yourself by eating lower-calorie meals in the days leading up to the event. This way, when you do indulge yourself at your company holiday party or family Thanksgiving, you’re not adding an abundance of calories to your weekly intake.

2. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand

Another way to stay healthy during the holidays is to pack your own food. Mall food courts are jam-packed during the shopping season, feeding frenzied shoppers as they pick up the items on their gifting list. Generally speaking, the majority of options in a mall food court offer little to no nutritional value, so don’t sabotage your weight or health by eating there. Instead, bring your own healthy snacks to fuel you during your holiday shopping expeditions. Consider packing some trail mix, a banana, or whole grain rice cakes; these snacks will keep you energized and feeling full—plus, they’ll help you skip at least one long line!

3. Stick to Small Portions and Chew Slowly (The best healthy eating tip for those big family dinners!)

Exercising portion control is also a great way to control calories. Take a small amount of all the foods you want to try during your holiday meal, and take your time when you eat them. Enjoy the flavors of the food (after all, it’s usually your taste buds that want seconds, not your stomach). Remember that it’s not a race—you don’t have to compete with your father-in-law in a speed-eating contest to see who can get through main course and to the pumpkin pie first! There’s lots of food and you don’t need to eat much of it.

4. Bring the Healthy Food Choices with You

If you’re really concerned about having a healthier option at family get-togethers or potlucks, think about how you can make healthy contributions to holiday parties. Bringing a side dish or a main course that’s a healthy twist on a traditional favorite—or even something new that can become a tradition—is a great way to introduce a healthy alternative. Even if nobody else wants it, at least you know you’ve got something you’re comfortable with eating seconds of!

Bonus Tip: If you have turkey, remove the skin and eat the breast (white) meat only in order to get the leanest cut possible and limit your fat intake.

The reality is that you’re unlikely to gain as much weight as you think you might over the holiday season. Don’t obsess over it, but do try and make the best choices for your health. Consider these ideas above and you might even lose weight over the next five weeks!

Source for Today’s Article:
Yanovski, J.A., et al., “A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain,” New England Journal of Medicine 2000; 342: 861–867.




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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »