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Eating Well Throughout the Holiday Season

The holidays are a great time to celebrate with friends, family and co-workers, but all that celebrating can make it difficult to meet your health goals. Try these tips to help keep you from overindulging this holiday season.

Be mindful when eating.

Use all 5 senses when you're eating. Appreciate what the food looks, smells, feels, sounds, and - most importantly - tastes like! Slow down as you eat to appreciate all that the food has gone through to arrive on your plate.

Pay attention to portion sizes.

Eating Well Throughout the Holiday SeasonUse small plates and bowls, especially at a party or buffet-style meal. Create a plate that is lower in calories and higher in vitamins and minerals.

  • Choose smaller portions of high calorie foods such as dips, fried foods and desserts.

  • Choose larger portions of nutrient-rich foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

Limit intake of high-calorie beverages.

Sweetened and alcoholic drinks can add up to 150–700 calories per drink!

  • Choose to drink water instead of juice, soda, or cocktails. Limit intake of high-fat beverages like eggnog.

Bring a healthy dish to a party.

If you are going to a potluck or throwing a party yourself, make a lower-calorie dish like fruit salad or fresh vegetables. Make a pact with your co-workers to keep holiday treats to a minimum at the office. Chances are most people in your office want to avoid weight gain during the holidays.

Decide as a group to only bring in a few treats, balanced by whole-grain snacks, fresh fruit or a vegetable tray. Plan ahead. If you know you are going to a party later in the day, eat light by filling up on lower calorie, higher fiber foods leading up to the event. Don’t skip meals and don’t go hungry!

Focus on nutrients.

Pack holiday dishes full of whole grains, vegetables, fiber, potassium and low/non-fat dairy products. Adjust recipes to make them lower in calories.

Use the “plate method” when planning meals and snacks for the day.

Make half of your food come from fruits and vegetables, one-quarter of your food from grains/starches such as bread, rice, or pasta (make at least half of these whole grain), and one-quarter of your food from protein such as lean meat/poultry, fish, beans/legumes, and nuts/nut butters. Also aim for 2-3 servings low/non-fat dairy daily.


Cooking and Baking Tips

Follow these tips brought to you from National Jewish Health registered dietitians.

  • Cooking and Baking TipsTo make more heart-healthy cakes, muffins, pie crusts and quickbreads:

    • When the recipe calls for butter or margarine, replace 100% of the butter or margarine with 80% oil (for example, canola or olive), and 20% moisture (for example, non-fat milk or water).

    • For cookies, replace 100% of the butter or margarine with a heart healthy buttery spread like Earth Balance or Smart Balance.

  • To reduce calories from sugar and oil when baking, try the following:

    • Substitute Splenda 1 per 1 substitution. Replace ½ cup of sugar with ½ cup of Splenda or less (per taste).

    • Substitute 50–100 percent of oil with applesauce. Replace 1 cup oil with either ½ cup applesauce and ½ cup oil OR 1 cup applesauce and no oil.

  • Choose low-fat or fat-free and low-salt alternatives when baking or preparing holiday favorites. Broths, soups, soy sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressings, cream cheese, cheese, milks, yogurts, sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk are all available in a lower-calorie or low-salt option.


This information has been approved by Michelle MacDonald, MS, RD; Janet Rausch, RD; and Alexandra Wilson, MS, RD, CDE (November 2012).