Healthy Holiday Eating

December 30, 2015

By Jillian Wanik, DCN, RDN
Registered dietitian

On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season, but research shows many of us never lose this weight and it can add up over the years. With just a few strategies, you can avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying friends, family and the holiday feast.

In preparation for a big holiday party or meal, do not skip meals throughout the day as this may result in overeating. It is especially important to have breakfast, as research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. There are many strategies to help you avoid overeating:

  • Using a smaller plate allows you to put less food on your plate and encourages proper portion sizes. Do allow yourself to enjoy foods that make your holiday season meaningful, but focus on eating smaller amounts.

  • When you are hosting, make sure the menu includes lower-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

  • Start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall. Eat slowly and savor every bite, and before you go back for seconds wait 10-20 minutes to see if you really are still hungry.

  • Sip a large glass of water between every alcoholic drink, nonalcoholic punch, or eggnog. This will help keep you hydrated, and you will drink fewer calories by the end of the night. Also, if you drink, keep track of the alcohol you drink. Do not drink just to be social; don’t let other guests negatively influence you.

  • You can reduce fat and calories without sacrificing taste by swapping out a few ingredients in your favorite recipes. Using two egg whites in place of one egg can reduce the cholesterol and produce the same tasty result. Try a low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth in your mashed potatoes to add flavor and cut back on added butter or margarine. Substitutions like applesauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads are a delicious way to add flavor and reduce calories. For dips, sauces and pie toppings use fat-free yogurt or low fat sour cream or whipped topping.

Also, exercising during the hectic and sometimes stressful holiday season can help you maintain your weight. Try to stay flexible. Know that you might miss out on some workouts but fit in exercise whenever you can by taking a walk at lunch time and using the stairs instead of the elevator at work and while shopping.

The holidays are a great time for celebrating with friends and family. With just a little preparation, you can keep off the extra holiday pounds and still enjoy all that the season has to offer.

Jillian Wanik is a registered dietitian at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 1.800.321.6244 or online,