How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays – Be Prepared

How to eat healthy during the holidays? This is the top question on the minds of many people. When the holidays roll around, many people forget all about their diets and throw healthy eating to the wind.

Weight gains of several pounds are not uncommon between Christmas and the New Year 

Eating healthy during the holidays comes down to one simple answer. Be prepared.

There are lots of tips that can help with your planning, but if you do not have a strategy, you may lose the battle of the bulge.

You do not need to deny yourself the luxury of savoring eye-popping treats IF you have planned ahead. Find a healthy balance that works for you.

Your Plan Must Begin with the Right Mindset

Table set with a lavish spread of food - How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays
Table set with a lavish spread of food

Without a mindset that is determined to indulge in healthy eating, none of the suggested tips will work for you.

This does not mean that you will completely avoid some of the delectable foods offered at holiday lunch or dinner. It only means that you are ready to choose wisely. To be able to choose wisely requires some understanding of the essential nutrients for a healthy body.

Shopping Tips

  • Do not go shopping  hungry. Eat before you go shopping so that the scents of food do not tempt you to feast on treats while shopping.
  • When you get to the shopping center or stores you wish to visit, do not park as close as you can get to these stores. Subconsciously, we all tend to want to park as close as possible to where we want to go.
  • The advantage of parking farther away from the stores you wish to visit when you shop is that it affords you the opportunity of walking exercise to these stores.
  • Should you decide to have lunch with friends, follow the recommended tips discussed under the “Tips for eating Out “ section

Home Cooking

It is probably a lot easier to plan if you are doing the cooking for family and guests because there are simple choices you can make to ensure that foods served are healthy. Look for healthy recipe options.

Book-The-New-American-Heart-Association-Cookbook-9th-Edition - How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays

Cook recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats. Prepare turkey or fish instead of red meat.

Most traditional foods can be made low fat. For example

  • Turkey is very lean without the skin,
  • Gravy can be made without any fat.
  • Potatoes that are served without butter can be very healthy.
  • Vegetables can be served plain instead of in a creamy base

Eating Out – 11 Tips for How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays

It can be a bit trickier eating out as it is ever so easy easy to get swept up in the holiday season. Tricky, but not impossible to watch what you eat. It’s all about choices.

The following tips are helpful.

1.Never attend a holiday party hungry or worse still…famished because you will end up eating more than you bargained for as your willpower goes to the winds! Before you go to a party, eat a small snack to help curb your appetite.

2. Drink lots of water to reduce your appetite. It helps to keep you from binging should the desire to do so arise.

3. Do not stand next to the  buffet or dessert tables. That is simply “setting yourself up for temptation” because it makes it way too easy to reach for food as you talk. Should you feel the urge to constantly replenish a favorite food, suck a pint or chew a stick of gum instead

4. Only eat fruits and veggies while you mingle. These are less calorie packing foods which won’t make you feel bad about snacking or look anti-social if you were not eating anything.

5. Eating Tips for the Holidays – Learn how to conquer the buffet table and make wise selections (see next section)

6. You are not obliged to eat everything at parties. Be selective, but feel free to sample foods although you should not go overboard on any of them. 

7. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, low fat dressings, and slices of lean meats.  These are quite filling and will help to reduce the quantities of the main meal you will eat. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes — unless they are loaded with creamy sauces or butter. Make use of fresh, canned or frozen produce in recipes as they are nutritionally similar.

8. Do not be hasty to take second servings. It generally takes the brain a couple of minutes to receive a signal from the stomach that it is full.

It is recommended that you take a 10-minute break to drink water and mingle after your first helping following which you can recheck your appetite.

Do not be surprised that you might find that your stomach is actually full, or that you may only have room for a small portion of a second serving or dessert.

9. If possible, avoid alcohol. Most importantly, do not take alcohol on an empty stomach because it increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.

10. Drink wisely. It might interest you to know that a glass of eggnog has between 300 – 500 calories, while wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories.

If you choose to drink alcohol, select a glass of water or juice-flavored soda water in between drinks.

11. Do not forget about exercise.  Keeping weight off during the holiday season is burning off the extra calories.  A few ways to exercise

  • Dancing is a great way to work off some holiday calories.  
  • Take a walk after meals,
  • Park farther away from stores when you shop so that you have to walk a distance, and
  • Walk a few rounds around the mall before you begin your shopping.

Eating Tips for the Holidays – Conquer the Buffet Table with a 4 – Step Formula

A buffet spread of delicious holiday food, can create untold demands on your willpower. Be prepared

  • Always start with vegetables to reduce your appetite.
  • Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.
  • Eat slowly. It takes between 10 – 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. Keep in mind that when you eat in the company of other people, there is the tendency to eat more than is necessary because the meal time usually lasts longer.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Alcohol can lower your blood sugar and interact with medications for diabetes.

If you are diabetic, it is imperative that you constantly monitor your blood sugar during the holidays and consult your doctor about increased spiking. This is to determine if your medication dosage needs to be adjusted.

9 Ways to Modify Your Holiday Cooking or Eating

  • Select white meat (chicken or turkey) without the skin as a lower-fat choice than dark meat (beef)
  • Prepare smaller amounts of gravies and cream sauces and use sparingly to enhance taste.
  • Cook stuffing in a separate dish from the meat. There are two advantages to doing so. Firstly, It will be lower in fat and secondly, it reduces the risk of undercooking and potential food poisoning
  • Serve baked potatoes, yams and steamed vegetables plain or with spices for flavoring. These are great alternatives to their use as part of a rich casserole or covered with cream sauce.
  • Substitute evaporated skim milk or plain low-fat yogurt for cream and sour cream.
  • Use less sugar in baked treats and desserts by using pureed fruit for natural sweetness or Stevia.
  • For dessert, limit the choices you eat to only 1 or 2 items and always opt for smaller portions. While you may enjoy sampling a piece of every dessert available, desserts are notorious for their high calorific content EXCEPT they were made with low fat in mind. But how do you know this if you did not prepare them yourself? This is why it is better to be be on the safe side by eating only 1-2 small portions.
  • Select unsweetened flavored beverages to drink or drink lots of water.
  • Avoid eggnog (because of the high calorie content) and choose fewer alcoholic drinks, which tend to be higher in calories. One serving of alcohol is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of light beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Conclusion – How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays

Being prepared and being selective about what you eat is the best way how to eat healthy during the holidays.

Related Articles


Patrick J. Skerrett (2019). Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. 12 tips for holiday eating

CDC (2020) 5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

Good Food as Good health (2019) – UC Davis Health

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips, Tricks & Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating Mind over Munch

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