Healthy Holiday Eating Survival Tips


During the holiday season, it’s easy to exceed your daily energy or calorie needs, putting you at risk for gaining weight. However, with a little advance planning and these helpful tips, you can enjoy the treats the holidays bring while also maintaining a healthy diet.

Offer to bring a healthy dish to the party. Contributing a healthy side dish like a festive salad with spinach, walnuts, and apples or a veggie platter stocked with your favorite hummus and guacamole can help yourself and others. Try roasting vegetables like butternut squash, zucchini, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli tossed in chopped garlic and thyme. You’ll be the hit of the party.

Be polite, but firm. Saying no to Your Aunt Sheri’s famous double chocolate peanut butter fudge or Cousin George’s sweet plum wine can be difficult, but you’ll feel better in the long run if you do. Express to them how great it smells or how beautiful it looks — and if they insist, ask if you can take what they’re offering home to enjoy later.

Take a break before taking seconds. Give yourself at least 20 minutes to eat your meal. It takes about that much time for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. Eat slowly. Make conversation. Drink water. After all that time passes, you may realize you don’t want a second helping after all.

Eat pre-party. Don’t arrive with an empty stomach — pre-game with foods rich in water and fiber, such as carrots, apples, cucumbers, grapes, and pears. If you’re on the run, be sure to grab something healthy like a fruit and nut bar before you leave home.

Limit alcohol intake. Alcoholic beverages tend to be calorie dense and nutrient void. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one to two drinks per day for men and one drink for women. A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits. And avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

Eat as close to your usual meal times as possible. It may be a holiday to you, but it’s just another day to your body and metabolic system. Don’t skip a meal just so you can eat more later.

Keep your distance. Don’t stand near the buffet – unless you’re near the veggie tray. Consider socializing away from the food—by the fireplace, or better yet, outside.

Don’t be shy when at a restaurant. There’s nothing wrong with asking your server to substitute a salad for fries or requesting that the chef put the sauce on the side. Reviewing the menu in advance can help you make healthy choices. If you choose a meal that is served in a very large portion, ask for a box and put half aside to enjoy later.

By Alyssa Luning, R.D., a registered dietitian with Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center. Call 1-888-742-7496 or visit

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