Holiday Nutrition Survival Guide


With Halloween candy still lingering around the house or office, the recent Thanksgiving feast and multiple social occasions to celebrate the entire holiday season, this can be a very challenging time of year to stay on track with health goals. Contrary to popular belief, the average holiday weight gain is about 1-2 lbs., but we tend to keep it on and accumulate more with each passing year. It’s really not that hard to do when you consider that it only takes an extra 250 calories/day to lead to a ½ pound gain by the end of the week. You’ve worked so hard this year to get healthy and lose or maintain your weight so let’s keep it up this holiday season- here’s how:

  1. Never arrive to your social function with a big appetite. Have a small snack ahead of time to take off the edge. Don’t skip a meal or save up your calories- this will encourage over eating. Healthy snacks to have on hand: raw veggies, low fat yogurts, low fat cheese, whole grain crackers…

  2. Incorporate daily moderate physical activity. Even doing two 15-minute walks each day can make a difference by burning about 200 calories total. This is especially easy to do when holiday shopping! If you can’t get to a gym, try a pedometer and gradually increase your steps each day- 10,000 steps/day = 5 miles

  3. Factor in Alcohol. A martini contains about 275 calories, and 1 glass of wine has about 150 calories. Also watch out for all of the calories you might consume while you drink. Try substituting with a glass of sparkling water in between. Moderation for men is no more than 2 drinks per day and no more than 1 drink per day for women (wine: 5 oz, beer: 12 oz, liquor: 1.5 oz)

  4. Keep a Food Record. Nothing makes us more aware of what we are eating than writing it down- especially during the holiday season. One study showed that we often underestimate our intake by 1,000 calories!

  5. Eat breakfast. Research shows that those who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Don’t make the mistake of “saving” up on calories because you know you have a holiday party to go to that night. Eat regularly throughout the day- about every 3-5 hours.

  6. Plan ahead! It’s not so much of a lack of will power but a lack of preplanning. Think ahead and set realistic daily goals for yourself. Start thinking about making healthy food choices before you even walk into the party.

  7. Try not to stand right next to the food table at holiday parties. Focus on socializing vs. eating. We tend to eat what we see the most of and that visual cue may trigger you to keep eating even if you aren’t even hungry.

  8. Focus on Fiber. Include fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout your day. High fiber foods are high in volume and satisfying but lower in calories

  9. Offer to bring an appetizer or a dessert: guarantee a healthy choice for yourself by bringing something i.e. veggie trays, a low-fat spinach dip or a lighter dessert.

  10. Portions, Portions, Portions- practice portion control: enjoy your favorite holiday foods but be mindful of your portions. Try eating slower or using smaller plates. Fill up ½ your plate with lower calorie items such as raw veggies or shrimp cocktail. Finally, practice using a hunger rating scale (1-5)1: ravenous 2: somewhat hungry 3: comfortable 4: comfortably full 5: stuffed. Try not to let yourself get to a 1 or a 5. Portions are right in the palm of your hand:

1 cup= 2 rounded palms

½ c= 1 rounded palm

1 oz= 1 handful

3 oz= palm of hand

1 tbsp= size of thumb

1 tsp= tip of thumb

1 oz of cheese= size of thumb

By Jennifer Starkey & Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD

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