Published on November 22, 2021

Tis the Season: Healthy Holiday Eating

healthy holiday food

Most Americans may eat as many as 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat during holiday meals between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas dinners.

On average, individuals gain about five pounds over the holiday season, which could lead to an additional 20 pounds over 10 years.

Individuals who try to adhere to a strict diet all through the year are more likely to gain twice as much weight as non-dieters.

To help combat holiday weight gain, focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss. Maintaining your current weight can present enough of a challenge during the holiday season.

In addition, don’t plan to diet in the New Year. The anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-like eating over the holidays.

Avoid an all-or-nothing attitude that leads to “oh I’ve blown it—I’ll start again Monday” and then eating everything in sight. Enjoy the holiday but remember it does not last all month long.

Try a new focus this year. Holidays are usually a time where we gather, typically around food, which can make it tough to stick to healthful eating. However, you can make it through the holidays without blowing a healthy lifestyle. Consider the non-food aspects about the season – family, faith and giving thanks.

To tackle the holidays in a healthy way:

  • Consider what you can control. Review cooking methods to try lightening up recipes. Be aware of nutrition information on food labels. For example, switch to lower fat cream of mushroom soup in casseroles to lower the total calories and sodium simply by making one swap.
  • Watch your portions. Start with a small amount of all your favorites. Avoid adding foods to your plate that you do not care for. Eat slowly and savor the foods of the season so that you feel satisfied on a smaller amount. Fill up on green vegetables and lean protein first to keep you fuller and more satisfied all day. Enjoy the starchy foods like breads, casseroles and desserts last. If you are still hungry 20 minutes after the first plate, try a smaller portion of more of your favorites. Try not to get additional servings if you are not truly hungry.
  • Don’t save up. Before the holiday meal or party, be sure to eat regularly. Going to a party or gathering on an empty stomach can be dangerous. If you are overly hungry, you are more likely to overeat. Maybe try eating a small snack with protein and fiber a few hours before your gathering.
  • Drink plenty of water. Drinking water steadily throughout the day while you prepare and cook holiday meals can help you resist holiday grazing, which can add up to a lot more calories than intended.
  • Enjoy the holidays! Do not skip your favorite side dish or dessert; you will feel less satisfied and binge on your favorite food later.
  • It's okay to say “no” to food pushers if you aren’t hungry or do not particularly like a certain holiday food as much as something else.
  • Stay active during the holidays. Being physically active throughout the year helps you maintain a healthy weight and can help counterbalance the additional eating that is usually associated with the holiday season.

On average, individuals gain about five pounds over the holiday season, which could lead to an additional 20 pounds over 10 years.