Tips for Eating Smart During the Holiday Season

Author: Lindsey Ulrich

"It is good to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking during the holiday season and no overdue it"

The holiday eating season can make or break a diet and other health goals. The joy and festivities celebrating the upcoming season can often come at a steep price for many: Calories.

The cheer and “togetherness” of the season is often enjoyed with plenty of food and drink. The work to burn off those sugars, fats, and excess carbohydrates can be minimized, though, with some planning and a little extra discipline during the season itself.

“It is good to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking during the holiday and not overdo it,” said Martha Quain, registered dietitian at McLaren Greater Lansing. 

Holiday meals can average between 2,700 and 3,000 calories, and some of the seasonal favorites can hide more calories than some realize.

  • Mixed nuts (1/2 cup = 408 calories)
  • Cranberry sauce (1/4 cup = 110 calories)
  • Stuffing/dressing (1 cup = 360 calories)
  • Mashed potatoes (1 cup made with milk and butter = 214 calories)
  • Gravy (2 Tbs. = 39 calories)
  • Green bean casserole (1 cup = 191 calories)
  • Ham (4 oz. = 191 calories)
  • Turkey – dark meat (4 oz.= 183 calories)
  • Egg-nog (1 cup = 343 calories)
  • Wine (5 oz. = 120 calories)

Additionally, adding salt, seasonings, and other items can increase calories and reduce nutritional value (while adding to the sodium content).

Quain recommends some healthy alternatives that can be made to holiday staples that can cut the excess but maintain the flavor.

 “If you are contributing to a party, bring something that is healthy and nutritious,” said Quain.

This may include:

  • Choosing hummus instead of creamy dips (or avoid dips altogether)
  • Light meats over dark meats
  • Sweet potatoes as opposed to seasoned mashed potatoes
  • Prioritize lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables
  • Substitute baked, grilled, or roasted fruits over fruit pie
  • Alternate between water and your beverage of choice

Some other ideas when monitoring your food intake include having a snack before a party so you do not arrive hungry, moving yourself away from the food so that you are not tempted to overeat, and pausing and taking a break before considering a second helping.

“Pick your splurge and remember that you don’t need to eat one of everything,” said Quain. “Enjoy the people more than the food. Focus on your family, friends, and holiday cheer.”

McLaren Greater Lansing offers educational services and nutritional guidance with a registered dietitian to assist in establishing a healthy weight, improving healthy outcomes, and quality of life. To learn more, click here.