A Dietitian’s 4-Step Approach to Eating for the Holiday Season

holiday email wf 2016When I think about holiday eating, what comes to mind are food choices that wouldn’t be the norm for me and overeating. Yes, as a dietitian, I worry about making healthful choices during the holiday season. Having a plan increases my chances of making healthful choices. Be aware that the plan is not always a success either. In this article, I share my typical interactions at holiday gatherings in order to provide specific instances to encourage you to have a healthier holiday season.

  1. First, before a holiday event, I prepare a healthful food option that has a relatively low amount of calories and is full of nutrients. This allows me a “go-to” food item, no matter what will be available. Vegetables are a good option as a starter, before you are tempted to delve into other foods. I load my plate up with vegetables so there isn’t a lot of room for other food items. For my family, I brought a kale salad one year that turned out to be a big hit and can be a healthful option for future gatherings. Bringing a healthful dessert could be a good idea as an option instead of other not as healthful desserts. My family always has fresh fruits that I indulge in, guilt free. I’ve also brought mini sweet potato pies one year that satisfied cravings in a bite-sized amount. Here are a couple of festive – and healthy – “go-to” veggie dishes that make the perfect companion at any holiday gathering.
  2. I have to make room for the classics. For me, it’s my grandma’s stuffing, my aunt’s potato salad, and typically other homemade items. I can’t say no to foods that have been homemade by my family. Knowing what classic dishes I want to indulge on, I can mentally prepare to serve myself small samples of these items, because when seconds come around I’m probably going to get these items again.
  3. Now when it’s that time that I think about seconds, I visit with family members or play with my niece and nephew. I try to utilize the calories from my meal as much as possible. If I still plan on getting seconds, I try to stick with vegetables and fruits first. In comparison to other foods, fruits and vegetables supply a small amount of calories per serving size. Then, if I go back to the classics, I can get another small sample of each.
  4. I’ve tried to incorporate physical activity around the holidays, so a lot of calories don’t go to waste. Sign up for an event centered on physical activity with family and friends. Follow a training program and schedule a hard workout around your holiday gathering. It can be hard but even going for a walk with others will burn more calories than sitting.

Around the holiday season, be realistic. It doesn’t make sense to tell yourself that you aren’t going to try your grandma’s amazing cooking or that you aren’t going to have any dessert. Know yourself and understand your not so healthful habits. Once we know these, we can adjust them so they are slightly healthier. We can only adjust them, if you know and admit to where there can be an improvement. We aren’t perfect so don’t feel bad if you don’t succeed in eating your best this holiday. If you followed through with your slight improvements, you showed some progress! Let’s be happy about that.

wf holiday blog recipesRoasted Brussels Sprouts

Chef Michael Symon loves Brussels sprouts because they can be cooked so many different ways. In this healthy recipe, the rich flavor of the walnuts, Dijon and capers is perfection with roasted meats. Get the full recipe here.

Massaged Kale Salad

Here a pungent garlicky dressing is infused into kale by massaging the greens and the dressing together with your hands. Any type of kale will work in this kale salad recipe, just remember to remove the tough stems before you start. Click here for easy steps to prepare this healthy starter.

Recipes are courtesy of EatingWell.