10 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating
The winter holiday season is a busy time for most of us.
When you are on the go with family and social events, shopping, and holiday hoopla, make sure eating right is on your to-do list.
Try our top 10 quick tips – some for surviving holiday parties, the rest for eating well at home or anywhere – and eat well for the holidays and into the new year.
Tip #1 - Be prepared. Whether you are eating at home, eating on the go while running holiday errands, or going to a party, planning and preparation will help you make healthy choices.
At home, plan your menu, keep healthy foods convenient – like a fruit salad or cut vegetables front and center in the refrigerator -- and tuck treats out of sight.
If you will be on the go, EvergreenHealth nutritionist Marcy Dorsey, MS, RD, CD, suggests packing a nutritious snack, such as a hard-boiled egg, nuts, hummus and whole-grain crackers, or an apple and nut butter.
If you are going to a potluck, take a tasty, healthy dish such as our winter vegetable and farro recipe (below).
Roasted root vegetables, a salad, or any healthy side dish with vegetables and whole grains are all good choices.
You can be sure that other partygoers will appreciate some healthier fare, too.
Tip #2 - Eat first, then party. You may be inclined to skip meals when you know you’ll be eating at a party later in the day.
Marcy says skipping a meal is a sure-fire way to overdo it at a party, especially one with a buffet, since you make better choices when you aren’t starving.
She suggests eating regular meals plus a healthy snack before heading to the party.
Tip #3 - Don’t drink your calories. It can be hard to avoid high-calorie beverages like eggnog and cocktails during the holidays, but keep in mind that a cup of eggnog has 343 calories and 19 grams of fat.
Try having just a shot glass full and then switching to something else.
Water, coffee, and tea, or even wine, are better choices. Water will fill you up and keep your skin hydrated in the dry winter air. If you do drink alcohol, alternate drinks with water.
Tip #4 - Practice portion control. Try a few bites of different foods at a holiday buffet. Take a spoonful, not a plateful, of rich foods or treats.
Portion control goes for serving or packaging containers, too. It’s easy to grab handful after handful of snacks from a giant jar or tin. Serve snacks in small containers to keep yourself in check.
Whether dining out or at home, set aside a lunch portion for the next day to help you eat healthy and save you money.
Tip #5 - Party strategically. Plan a strategy to eat well at a party. Don’t be in a rush to eat and dash; take time to mingle and settle into the festivities before you eat.
When you do eat, choose a small plate so you don’t load up with too much food.
Eat a small plate of vegetables or low-calorie foods like shrimp cocktail before passing by the desserts.
Choose small samples of the foods you love, and skip those you don’t.
Don’t linger near the buffet or bowls of snacks so you reduce mindless eating.
Tip #6 - Make Monday meatless. Skipping meat at least once a week is good for your health and for the environment, making it an eating well tip that’s good all year long.
Going meatless once a week or more may reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, plus improve your diet and increase longevity.
It also helps reduce your intake of saturated fat, and a Harvard University study found that replacing foods with saturated fats, like meat, with those with polyunsaturated fats, like nuts, can reduce your heart disease risk by 19%.
Replacing meat with vegetables and a legume- or grain-based protein source provides great nutrition.
Try our stuffed squash and winter vegetable recipe (below) and visit meatlessmonday.com for more information.
Tip #7 - Eat your colors. Eating your colors doesn’t mean having a rainbow of frosting colors on your cookies!
Marcy says eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is important now and all year long to help you get important nutrients.
Eat leafy greens for calcium or oranges for vitamin C.
Colorful foods also tend to be high in antioxidants – see Tip #8.
Root vegetables, citrus, winter squash, and pomegranates are all easy to find this time of year.
Tip #8 - Boost your immunity. Winter is cold and flu season, but eating right can help protect you.
Marcy recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of fluids to keep your immune system healthy:
- Red foods (peppers, tomatoes) have vitamin C
- Blue foods (blueberries, blackberries) are full of anthocyanin antioxidants
- Orange foods (pumpkin, carrots) contain beta carotene.
Tip #9 - Boost nutrition with simple substitutions. Make “gentle swaps” to help make your favorite foods healthier:
- Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or whole-grain bread or pasta instead of refined grains
- Stock or low-fat milk instead of oil or butter in mashed potatoes or vegetable dishes
- Salsa instead of creamy dips,
- Shrimp or chicken kebabs instead of heavy appetizers
- Pumpkin pie instead of pecan.
- Flax seed in place of oil and eggs when baking. One tablespoon of ground flax seed plus three tablespoons of water replaces an egg or quarter-cup of oil.
Tip #10 - All things in moderation. Marcy recommends mindful eating – slowing down and savoring every bite.
She says to skip the foods you don’t absolutely love and eat just a little of your favorites after filling most of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
A couple of cookies are fine, she says, just not an entire plateful!
By keeping these tips in mind, you can eat well throughout the holidays and kick off a healthy new year!
Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios
Winter Vegetables with Farro