Five Strategies for Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness November 10, 2017


The spirit of the holiday season is joy, togetherness and remembering those most important in our lives. However, sometimes the period between Halloween and the New Year can become one continuous party. It does take a bit of effort, but by following these tips from The Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery Program at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital you’ll have a plan for battling the holiday bulge: 
  1. Bring your own dish. Preparing a healthy, vegetable-based dish can guarantee that there will be at least one better option for filling half of your plate. Look for recipes that do not use words like creamy or au gratin and use cooking methods like baking or roasting. Any sturdy or root vegetables (think carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, bell peppers, etc.) can be cut in 1-2 inch square pieces, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted at 400 for 20-30 minutes for as easy an delicious side dish.
  2. Remember My Plate when making your plate. The My Plate guide from the USDA calls for half of your plate being non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter of your plate lean proteins, and one-quarter of your plate carbohydrates. Start with your healthy vegetable dish then add a lean protein, like white-meat turkey or pork tenderloin. Add carbohydrates last. A ten-inch plate will help you control portion sizes and still leave room for some of your favorite foods.
  3. Choose your foods (especially carbs!) wisely. You can have cheese and crackers, or chips and salsa any day of the week. For that special holiday gathering choose the carbohydrate foods that are special to you; like Grandma’s sweet potato casserole’ or Aunt Jean’s famous cranberry sauce. Keeping My Plate in mind, add small portions of these ‘once-a-year favorites’ to the carb corner of you plate.
  4. Don’t skip breakfast and/or lunch. While this may seem like a great idea, skipping meals almost always leads to over-eating at the next meal. Choose a protein-based meal, like low-fat yogurt with berries or eggs with turkey sausage, before your big meal of the day. This way you won’t be starving when all of your favorites are just a spoon away; and you can be more in control of the options you choose.
  5. Take a walk. When you finish your plate of food, step away from the buffet. Even a ten minute walk can help with blood sugar control; and being away from the sights and smells can help you avoid eating more when you aren’t actually hungry for more. Recruit some family or friends for a quick walk and chat. After all, the holidays are supposed to be about enjoying time together with those you love, not the food. 

These five simple tips can help you to healthfully navigate the hectic holiday party parade to maintain your healthy lifestyle. You spend the whole year working on your health. Don’t let the holidays derail you!

Audra Wilson, RD, LDN is a clinical dietitian working in outpatient bariatrics at Northwestern Medicine at Delnor Hospital.  She is passionate about helping patients achieve their health and weight loss goals through positive diet and lifestyle changes.

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