‘Tis the season for family, feasts and fun! Abundant, delicious food seems to be everywhere, beginning with Halloween and going through New Year’s Eve. It can be a great opportunity for smarter choices as well. There are ways to enjoy your favorite holiday foods and beverages and complement your nutrition and health goals.
Here are a few smart holiday eating tips to help guide you through those food-related situations and enjoy the celebrations:
- Make healthy and tasty dishes and sides to serve at home and bring along to gatherings: By taking charge of one or two menu items, you’ll be assured there will be something for you to choose in a room full of more indulgent options. A salad with seasonal fruit is always a welcome addition at home and at holiday celebrations.
Healthy Living choices such as Spinach Feta Pomegranate Salad and Pumpkin-Pear Gingersnap Trifle are delicious, enticing and nutritious.
- Enjoy everything in moderation: All foods (and drinks) can fit into your holiday meal plan. At a get-together, survey the options and complement the healthier possibilities, such as skinless white meat turkey, fruits and vegetables, with favorites such as gravy and mashed potatoes. If you want, take smaller portions of desserts and don’t feel you need to avoid them entirely. You might want to go easy on alcohol as well, which may diminish your inhibitions and lead to eating more than desired.
- Cheers to hydration: Water is a great choice. Add lemon or lime slices for a little zest. Seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice or MiO is one of our favorite holiday eating tips: you can feel festive without loading up on sugar. Staying hydrated is important not only for your health but can also help prevent overeating since thirst is sometimes confused with hunger.
- Choose your splurges! Remember that you’re not obligated to eat a certain way. If you want to indulge here and there, great! If you want to savor your food and eat slowly, that’s great too. Consider the foods you look forward to eating during the holidays, enjoy them and eat mindfully. If you don't care for Aunt Agatha's mincemeat pie, our holiday eating tip to you is to pass on it and ask her about her last vacation instead. Once you have filled your plate, move away from the food area and mingle with the crowd. Make the celebration more about the people, and less about the food.
- Tweak the sweets to cut down on added sugars and fats and amp up the nutrients in your favorite desserts:
- Instead of butter or oil, use unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas
- Cut back on the amount of sugar added in recipes
- Use low-fat or non-fat dairy products instead of full-fat options
- Boost the nutrition and flavor in recipes by adding shredded or pureed fruits and vegetables, whole grain flours, seeds, and nuts.
- Go to My Food and Family’s Healthy Living section for many more holiday recipe ideas.
- Holiday-proof your house: Although enticements at home may be fewer than those at outside gatherings, there are still plenty of opportunities to indulge on your favorite treats and go off the healthy eating path. Before the holidays, clean out your supply of usual “cheat” foods and goodies. This may help you maintain your goal of smart eating during the holidays.
- Plan ahead: The holiday season can be hectic with party planning, shopping, and errands. Plan ahead to help ensure you’re eating enough, and to make sure you’re eating enough nutrient-dense foods. And if you can’t stop to have a balanced meal, consider bringing along some smart snack options, such as nuts, dried or fresh fruit, or fresh vegetables to help you refuel until you can make time for a meal. One option to consider is Easy Fruit & Nut Bites, an easy-to-make-and-take snack that provides whole grains and fiber.
- Stay active: One of the best ways to feel good during the holidays is to stay active. Exercise can boost energy levels and help to reduce the stress and anxiety the season can bring. Turn activities into family events or join a community race or “fun run.” Be creative!
- Enjoy the holidays! While it can be easy to think of some foods as “good” or “bad,” remember that eating in a different way than you usually do is totally okay. The traditions and memories you make will be what you want to reflect on, rather than trying to deprive yourself of delicious treats.
The holidays are filled with traditions that include favorite meals and treats. Our best smart holiday eating tip is not to deny yourself your favorite dishes but simply to be ready to portion smartly, add healthier ingredients where you can and cut down on high calorie snacks and drinks. Be prepared with an action plan before the season starts; have meal and activity ideas planned ahead, especially when days get hectic. Then, when the holidays arrive, make some better-for-you food and exercise choices. These steps can lead to a healthier and happier few months.
For more recipes and ideas on how to stay on track with these holiday eating tips, explore our My Food and Family Healthy Living recipes or visit Choose My Plate.