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Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

By Jeremiah Gums, M.D.

There’s a popular saying during the holidays that calories don’t count. This standard gets you off the hook with all of your friends, but unfortunately, no one ever told your body about this seasonal rule.

Maintaining a healthy diet over the holidays is about finding balance. You shouldn’t overindulge, but it’s also best to avoid depriving yourself. Follow these healthy holiday tips to help find the sweet spot of enjoying holiday traditions while treating your body well.

Budget Calories

Approach your daily calorie allowance like a monetary budget. “Spend” your calories on the items that you really want to eat. By budgeting holiday calories, you won’t feel deprived and you’ll make sure the extra calories are for things you really enjoy.

The Confection Convenience Factor

If something is in front of us, we have a tendency to snack on it. Instead of setting out rolls or desserts while you’re waiting for the main course and hot sides to cook, leave out a veggie or fruit tray. This way, if you’re tempted to snag a snack, it’s a healthier option and will help you avoid overeating.

Survey, then Serve

Before digging in to the first bowl at the table, take a look at everything you have available to you. If there is a dish that you don’t particularly care for, skip it and save room for one that you truly enjoy or only get to have during the holiday season.

Knowing what is coming up in the food line will also help you choose a good balance of all of the food groups.

Avoid Portion Distortion

Over-sized plates and heaping restaurant servings have skewed our perceptions of how much we should eat on a regular basis.

Decorative holiday plates are festive, but they also tend to be larger than we need. When we see these big plates, we are compelled to fill them.

Try to stick to a plate that is 9 to 10 inches across. Then, use the MyPlate guidelines to fill your plate with a well-rounded meal.

  • Half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables.
  • A quarter of the plate should be filled with protein.
  • A quarter of the plate should be filled with carbs and starches. (Don’t forget that potatoes and corn count as starches!)

Savor Some Sweets

Instead of cutting yourself off completely from a certain type of food (i.e. carbs or sugars), allow yourself to have a couple of bites of your favorite dishes to make sure you don’t reach a breaking point and consume excessive amounts of what you’ve been avoiding.

To limit the amount of sweets you eat, offer to split a dessert with a sibling or consider dividing the desserts into small portion sizes before everyone starts going through the line.