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A Dietitian’s Survival Guide for the Holidays

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A Dietitian’s Survival Guide for the Holidays

Do you ever wonder what registered dietitian nutritionists do to enjoy holiday goodies without undermining their health goals? Cooper Clinic’s Nutrition Services team provides tips so you, too, can enjoy while staying healthy this holiday season.



1. Holiday Parties:

  • Plan to mingle in a room outside the kitchen or away from the food buffet.
  • It’s important to only take what you truly want. Sometimes a taste is all you need to satisfy your craving!
  • Balance rich foods with healthy choices. Consider fresh fruit instead of ambrosia, grilled vegetables instead of corn pudding or green bean casserole and go for pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie.
  • Pick your favorite dessert, stick with just one and split it with a family member or friend.
  • Offer to bring a healthier dish such as a veggie tray with hummus, fruit salad or mashed cauliflower.
  • Don’t skip meals that day─stay consistent with breakfast and lunch. Consider a small snack before you go so you don’t arrive starving.   

2. Alcohol: 

  • Beware of the bar. Cocktails, wine and beer quickly add unwanted calories. Holiday specials, such as eggnog, can often be more calories than a piece of pie! With wine, stick to the serving size (5 oz.) and sip slowly.
  • Choose calorie-free mixers such as sparkling water, lime juice or a splash of grapefruit juice for flavor. 
  • Alternate non-caloric beverages with caloric beverages.  
  • Remember, alcohol can enhance the evening but should not be the sole purpose or source of fun. Keep in mind what you’re actually celebrating and enjoy alcohol in moderation. 

3. Cooking/Meal Prep:

  • When prepping food, avoid taking small bites as they can add up, especially if you’ve been in the kitchen “tasting” a bite of each batch.
  • Limit holiday baking and sweets or share them with others to get them out of your house. Prepare two favorite desserts─that’s plenty!

4. Shopping/Mall Food: 

  • Never go to the mall on an empty stomach. You’ll end up tired, grumpy and likely more susceptible to the unhealthy options at the food court. 
  • If you know you’ll be shopping for several hours, pack a portable snack to carry in your purse or pocket. Think low-fat string cheese, 100-calories worth of almonds or half a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread. This will tide you over and give you lasting energy. 
  • Carry a water bottle so you can stay hydrated while walking around. 

5. Traveling:

  • Plan, plan, plan! If we fail to plan, we are planning to fail. Think ahead and pack healthy, filling foods when on the road or out of the house. 
  • Trail mix, fresh or dried fruit, baby carrots and bell peppers, peanut butter packets and low-sodium turkey jerky are all great snacks for traveling.

6. Hydration:

  • It can be difficult to remember to drink water when we are busy with family, friends and hosting or attending parties. Sometimes, this is the key to prevent overeating. 
  • Listen to your body and ask yourself: am I really hungry right now? If the answer is no, you may be thirsty. First, try drinking a tall glass of water and see how you feel after a few minutes. You may realize the problem is solved! 

Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by your to-do list and don’t use food as a stress reliever. When you feel stressed, try going for a brisk, 15-minute walk to clear your head or try 10 minutes of deep breathing and quiet meditation. Remember, maintain your sense of humor, eat reasonably, drink responsibly, stay active and have fun!

Think of the holidays as just that, a Holiday, not a Holiweek or Holimonth. You can still enjoy yourself with a few small, smarter eating and drinking choices. Plan in advance to be successful so when January rolls around, you can tackle the New Year in good shape. 

Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.