This Holiday, Stick to These 9 Tips for Healthier Eating


Oh, yes. The holidays. That special time of year when calories simply don’t count. When you can eat and drink as much as you want of anything you want. When “healthy holiday eating” means abstaining from adding a fat dollop of whipped cream to your third slice of pumpkin pie. 

Sadly, none of that is true. Calories never take a holiday. And while you sometimes can eat as much as you want, usually that pairs well with fruits and vegetables, not so much with pumpkin pie and alcoholic drinks.

So this holiday season, let’s reevaluate your eating and drinking habits. You don’t want to take a break from your healthy eating habits just to overindulge on holiday parties, holiday eating and holiday alcoholic beverages. All you need to do is practice a little moderation and good sense — and stick to  these 9 tips for healthy holiday eating.

Yes, these tips will include pumpkin pie.

Tip #1: Eat like a registered dietitian. Any food and nutrition expert will tell you it’s a bad idea to skip meals or try to save your calories for a holiday meal. Instead, they suggest eating a healthy snack like a high-protein yogurt topped with fruits, or veggies with hummus, before a big holiday meal. That will fill you up a bit and keep you from overeating. You can still enjoy those sugar cookies, cakes and creamy mashed potatoes — just balance those indulgences with healthy holiday eating. For example, make healthy choices like nibbling on a leafy green salad or grazing from the vegetable tray.

A nutritionist would also dissuade you from drinking too many alcoholic drinks, especially sweet holiday drinks packed with excess sugar. And while you should limit your alcohol intake, you can still tipple a bit — just choose low-calorie mixers like tonic or soda water. We’ll talk more about water and alcohol a few tips down.

Tip #2: Wear a tight pair of pants, or a tight dress. Seems counterintuitive to wear your skinny jeans to the holiday party. But if you wear something form-fitting, the outfit can encourage you not to overeat. You won’t eat so much that you’ll feel inclined to unbutton your pants or shimmy out of that tight-waisted skirt. 

Tip #3: Pick your decadence. If you’re at a holiday party, you can have carbs, cocktails or dessert. But if you’re hoping to give yourself the gift of weight loss this holiday season, you can’t have all three. So you need to thoughtfully decide on your decadence: carbs, cocktails, dessert. Which one is truly worth the calories? 

It might also help to have a “safe” dessert waiting for you at home, like a popsicle or a square of dark chocolate, that you know you get to eat once you leave the holiday party. That delayed reward can help curb your craving in the moment — and once you’re out of the tempting environment, you might not even want the treat waiting for you at home.

Tip #4: Drink up (water, that is). Water is critical for the function of your digestion, heart, lungs and brain. Water can also help regulate hunger. Nutritionists recommend drinking a glass of water before a meal, which can help you feel more full and may stop you from overeating. 

Tip #5: Get moving after you eat. Even in small amounts, exercise will help get the sugar and calories you just ate into the bloodstream to be used for fuel rather than stored as fat. So instead of plopping down on the couch after a big meal to watch football or a holiday movie, go outside for a brisk walk, or walk up and down a few flights of stairs. If you can, try to get in about 30 minutes of light exercise after you eat. 

Tip #6: Take a 10-minute pause before going back for seconds. It takes a few minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. After you enjoy your first helping, wait at least 10 minutes before refilling your plate. This would be a good time to drink another glass of water (in addition to the one you drank before you ate). That second glass will aid in helping you feel full. After 10 minutes, you may not want anything else to eat.

Tip #7: Fit in a few favorites. Completely cutting out favorites like desserts can feel like punishment. So yes, you can eat a slice of that pumpkin pie. But make the slice half the size you’d ordinarily eat. Or try one to two small bites of a few different desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth. By trying small bites, you get the pleasure of eating a delicious dessert but you reduce your calorie intake, and you won’t feel overly full.

 Tip #8: Limit your alcohol intake. Alcoholic drinks can be loaded with calories. And the more you drink, the more inclined you are to nibble. It’s easier to be mindful of everything you eat when you’re sober. Enjoy an alcoholic drink or two, but pace yourself throughout the evening if you’re at a holiday party. Chase each alcoholic drink with a glass of water.

Tip #9: Remind yourself that holidays are about enjoying friends and family, not food. This is the time of year where we can spend quality time with the people we love. Focus on the fun and joy of being around those you care about, instead of focusing on the food.

And to help yourself maintain balance and moderation in your eating routine, check out these tips on healthy eating for older adults.