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Healthy Eating for the Holidays

by Christa Jacobs

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Christa Jacobs
Christa Jacobs, RD, LDN,
Registered Dietitian for
Aramark at Susquehanna
Health

We’re heading into one of the most challenging dietary seasons of the year. As the sun sets earlier and the air gets colder, we’re exercising less and much more likely to reach for high calorie comfort foods. Add to that all the tempting holiday treats and celebrations, and it’s no wonder that many people gain one to five pounds this time of year. Here are some common dietary pitfalls and tips to help you enjoy the season without making weight gain a holiday tradition.

Family Favorites. You wait all year for the return of Aunt Alma’s fruit cake and Cousin Joe’s egg nog. Can you really stop after just one? The secret here is to taste and mindfully enjoy one serving of these special treats. If you feel the need to have seconds, take a serving home to freeze or eat a few days later.

Back-to-Back Parties. Don’t leave home without a game plan. Think about what you will eat and where. Eat high protein foods, such as an egg omelette, for breakfast to keep you full through the day. Offer to bring a tray of vegetables or a bowl of fruit for dessert so there will be healthy options on hand at the parties, too.

Buffet Boundaries. Whether you pile your plate too high or mindlessly graze while standing nearby, the buffet can quickly lead you to eat far more than you planned. Choose the smallest plate available and use the “My Plate” strategy to fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with meat and the other quarter with a starch. Try to avoid sausage and items in gravy which tend to a have the most calories. Once you’ve enjoyed the buffet, make a conscious effort to move yourself to another area of the party. Preferably not the bar! If you’re making a second trip to the buffet table, choose vegetables only.

Water frequently. No matter what the venue, water is your ally. Follow alcoholic drinks, which are typically high in calories, with at least one glass of water. If you’re contemplating a return to the buffet table or are about to ask someone to pass the mashed potatoes (again), make sure you drink a glass of water first.

Food gifts. Reduce the temptation to pig out on those boxed chocolates, specialty cheeses and home-made breads and cookies by freezing them or sharing with family and friends.

Beware the break room. There will be delicious treats in the lunch or break room at work. If you can, eat at your desk or someplace else to avoid the temptation. Bring your own healthy snacks from home to keep you away from trouble during the midafternoon doldrums.

Choose coffee drinks wisely. The difference between a plain black coffee and a 16 oz specialty coffee can be as much 465 calories, 19 grams of fat and 54 grams of sugar (those are the quantities for a Starbucks peppermint mocha as reported at www.starbucks.com)! In many cases you can order a “skinny” version of the drink made with sugar free syrup, skim milk and no whipped cream.

Dress for success. Wear tight fitting clothing to make you more conscious of what you’re eating.

It’s not all or nothing. If you pig out for a day or even two, don’t continue on that path for the rest of the holiday season. You don’t want to establish a new bad habit as you head into the new year. Commit to eating smart the day after each party to keep things in balance. You’ll be especially thankful that you remained mindful of good eating habits when January rolls around.

Christa Jacobs, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian for Aramark at Susquehanna Health.