Enjoy Festive Holiday Food While Staying Healthy


We wait for it all year, that wonderful time when we eat things that we don’t usually consume, and sometimes we eat too much of it. The holidays are all about food, and it is possible to enjoy what you love and not feel guilty about it later. The key is to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods — those that have a high level of nutrients but are relatively low in calorie count.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy treats, but you should be mindful about portions and indulge just a little bit. Remind yourself that the first bite or two tastes the best, so slow down and savor the flavors and textures of the delicacies you look forward to all year!

Party the Smart Way

Holiday parties can be a challenging minefield of delicious foods with low nutritional density, so don’t go to a party on an empty stomach. Try to drink plenty of water and eat a small, healthy snack before the event. Take a good look at all the food choices on the buffet before you select to ensure your calories count. Balance your plate with 50 percent fruits and vegetables, just like any other day. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can enjoy any time of the year, like a dinner roll, potato chips or cubes of cheese — look for something you wouldn’t normally eat.

When you’re invited to a party, offer to bring a dish that fits your normal meal plan. Hosts often love when guests bring a fresh fruit platter or veggie platter with a fun and healthy dip. Focus on the people and good conversation and move away from the food table.

Did you know that anything you put on a cracker can be enjoyed on a cucumber? Again, fruits and vegetables make nutritious fill-ups without extra calories. Lean protein options including shrimp, smoked salmon, lean meats or beans and hummus can help satisfy hunger.

Limit Alcohol But Not Exercise

Alcoholic beverages mean holiday cheer for many of us — eggnogs, mixed drinks and hot ciders. When we have a cocktail or two, our inhibitions around food choices tend to take a dive. We start out selecting fruits and vegetables, but after a drink or two, the higher-calorie options call to us. With so many flavored soda waters and seltzers available these days, enjoy a cocktail but keep a glass of seltzer water in your hand — good for sipping during cocktail hour.

Stick with your regular exercise routine, and try to work out before or after holiday events. Regular exercise can help temper holiday stress and might help regulate your appetite.

Plan an event without food as its focus. Join family and friends at a tree lighting, go ice skating or enjoy a holiday concert. Get outside and take a brisk walk to enjoy holiday decorations or create a new family tradition — it’s what the holidays are all about.

It’s important to remind yourself that with a little planning and a positive attitude, the holidays can be fun and healthy. Relax and enjoy the day of the celebration. Just don’t let one day turn into a week or month of holiday eating.

Ann Caldwell is a nutritionist and registered dietician for Luminis Health.


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