13 Tips for Healthier Holiday Eating

By: Angelimar De Jesus Jimenez , University of Maryland Health Center, Dietetic Intern

I absolutely love the holidays! I mostly love this season because it’s one of the two times of the year I get to spend with my family…but, the food isn’t bad either!

photo used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Jeff Kubina

photo used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Jeff Kubina

Unfortunately, food around the holidays has been getting a bad rep over the years, and it’s not without cause. We all tend to go crazy for stuffing, turkey, pies, cookies, and all the many holiday goodies.

I have a few tips to share with you that will help you enjoy all those goodies with less guilt.

  • Fill up on the good stuff. Pile fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins on your plate during your meals so that your appetite doesn’t go haywire.
  • Plan your indulgences. Can’t wait to eat that delicious homemade pumpkin or pecan pie? Think about what you are willing to trade for it. Adding extra time to your workout might be a good way to go.
  • Skip on seconds. Trust me, I know an extra serving of those delicious holiday foods is tempting. But most of the time, it’s not worth it and tends to lead to overeating. Try and truly savor the food the first time around so you don’t feel deprived by not making the second trip.
  • Eat breakfast. It’s as simple as that. Many studies have shown that by eating breakfast people consume fewer calories throughout the day.
  • Be active. After the meal, go for a walk – it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with your relatives. If walking is not your thing, go out and play some basketball or catch, maybe throw the football around with your siblings. If you’re traveling by plane, take a walk around the concourse during your downtime waiting for boarding. The point is to stay active; believe me, you’ll feel better after. We love these 15 tips to stay active during the holidays.
  • Be observant. Survey what is being served first. Only choose the items you really want to eat and skip those that don’t really appeal to you.
  • Skip the pre-party snacks. Or, at least reduce its consumption: You can save those calories for the main meal and for the dessert.
  • Go for color. Add lots of colorful fruits and vegetables or dishes that have these as its main ingredients.
  • Avoid cream-based dishes. Also keep a look out for creamy dressings, sauces, and such – only add a little bit since they tend to be high in calories.
  • Honor your hunger cues. You don’t really have to eat everything that is on your plate. If you are full, stop eating. It’s better to feel satisfied than getting that unwanted feeling that comes with overeating. Yeah, you know the one …
  • Portion control. The saying “everything in moderation” is a good one for this time of year. Check out this handy guide to holiday party portion control.
  • Pack healthy snacks for travel. If you’re like me, the holidays are when you travel the most, whether it is through road trips or by plane. Here are a few of my favorite snacks to pack for when I travel:
      • Unsalted nuts
      • Apple slices and peanut butter
      • Dried fruits
      • Carrots and tomato wedges (or any raw veggies) with hummus
      • Reduced- fat cheese sticks
      • Reduced sodium turkey sandwich (for when I’m really hungry)
  • Stay hydrated. Since, I can’t bring my own water with me on the plane, I buy a bottle of water once I’m at the terminal. If I’m on a road trip, I always keep my trusty water bottle by my side. At parties, opt for water over sugary juices or sodas.

Have a “terp-a-rific” holiday!

Share with us! What are your favorite healthy holiday tips, activities, or foods?

For more information about holiday eating or traveling snacks tips, sign up for a FREE Diet Analysis with the University Health Center.

Fore more healthy holiday inspiration, follow CRS’ “Healthier Holidays” Pinterest board.

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