Dietitians’ Top Nutrition Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Sharon Palmer

The holiday season is in full swing! This is such a joyous time, but along with the joy comes stress, expectations, and nutrition pitfalls. No need to fret though. You can handle this time of year with grace and ease, if you have the right tools in your toolbox. Holiday parties, sweet treats, a plethora of cocktails, family meals, and stress are no match for you, fierce warrior! How can you survive all of this, enjoy your favorite foods and traditions, and still keep your sanity and health in balance? Read on for top nutrition tips from some of our favorite dietitians, who are are dishing out advice on surviving the holidays without losing sight of your health and wellness goals.

My annual holiday table!

Top 12 Dietitian Tips for Surviving the Holidays

1. Be Consistent in Your Eating Habits. The holidays are not the time to significantly alter your eating habits. “Don’t skip meals in hopes of saving up the calories for the big dinner. Eat consistently and mindfully,” says Allegra Gast, RD, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Aloha Nutrition.

Make sure to enjoy healthy balanced meals with foods from all food groups. This Green Goddess Buddha Bowl offers a good way to meet your needs.

2. Don’t Overly Restrict. Healthy eating patterns come from being less restrictive and enjoying all food groups. “All foods fit. Choose healthy portions—you can enjoy larger portions of healthy foods while still being able to enjoy smaller portions of the treats you love. This beats strict diets and banning entire food groups,” says Lisa Young PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

Eat veggies at meals to help combat the effects of stress.

3. Combat Stress with Nutrition. Movement, gratitude, and eating your veggies are key in helping manage stress. “Vital nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins can be depleted when the body undergoes even minor stress encountered on a daily basis. Getting daily exercise and movement, incorporating more vegetables into your diet—even just one or two servings per meal, and practicing gratitude are some things that can be done to help alleviate stress,” says Jeanette Kimszal RDN, NLC.

Pump up your diet with fiber, such as that found in Vegetarian Hoppin’ John with Okra.

4. Rev Up Your Energy Levels. This advice is a gold mine when it comes to keeping your energy levels high in order to meet your demands. “Keep your energy and metabolism up during the holidays by reducing stress, adding fiber-rich foods to your plate, staying hydrated, pacing yourself while eating, and going for a pre- and post-meal walk,” says Jane Pelcher, RDN, recipe developer, and food stylist of Jane The Dietitian.

Snack on something healthy, like this Baked Pear Trail Mix.

5. Snack Before Parties. Here’s a simple trick to keep yourself from overindulging. “Stay mindful of hunger and have a small snack before going to holiday parties like a yogurt or an apple with PB. Also, try to slow down eating and enjoy each bite. Allow yourself to have a small portion of a sweet holiday favorite,” says Janet Brancato MS, RDN of MyNutopia.

Be mindful and enjoy your meals. Start with this comfort food, yet healthy classic: Herbed Lentil Patties with Mushroom Sauce

6. Be Mindful in Your Eating. This is the perfect time of year to practice mindful eating. “Instead of stressing about calories, mindfully eat. Focus on slowing down and enjoying your food from a plate. Put your fork down, slowly chew your food, and finally take a sip of your drink before picking up your fork to prepare your next bite,” says Lacy Ngo, MS, RD of Mindfulness in Faith and Food.

7. Get Your Blood Pumping. Let’s not forget how important movement is. “Health is not only about nutrition. Physical activity or fitness is another aspect of health. Enjoy the food, festivities, and people that come with the holidays, but also stay active with whatever gets your blood pumping,” says Jaymar Saniatan, RD of Nutrition Phitness.

Include many hydrating water-based beverages, such as this simple recipe for Herbal Lemon-Lime Mint Water.

8. Keep the Water Flowing. Water helps combat fatigue. “Stay hydrated instead of caffeinated. Grab water when you’d usually go for more coffee or soda,” says Lisa Andrews, RD of Sound Bites Nutrition.

Check out this blog for more tips on enjoying alcohol in a healthful way.

9. Go Easy On The Alcohol. Too much alcohol puts unnecessary stress on the body. “Imbibe mindfully at the holidays to stay healthy this winter. No only does alcohol depress the immune system, but winter cocktails can be packed with sugar and fat. The good news is that there are some lighter options. Guidelines state that men should limit alcohol intake to 2 servings per day and women should limit to 1 per day which can be a challenge during holiday party season. Enjoy a cocktail if you want to and then switch to soda water with a beautiful holiday garnish when you’re finished,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN of Champagne Nutrition.

10. Enjoy Doing You. Unpleasant changes can be unsustainable. “Find enjoyment in some health-related behaviors, such as consuming nutritious foods that you like, or engaging in activities that you genuinely enjoy. So often, people try to drastically change their dietary habits or their exercise routines to do what they think they should do, and these changes can be unsustainable if the enjoyment factor is lacking. Instead, add some veggies that you love, prepared in a way that you love, to your holiday table (and your daily intake) and aim to move in a way that you enjoy every day (or most days),” says Alyssa Lavy MS, RD, CDN, and owner of Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness LLC.

Bake these traditional Swedish ginger cookies with your family.

11. Have Some Fun in the Kitchen with Your Family. With all the stress of the season, it’s important to remember to make some room for fun. “Schedule fun local activities with your family—from Christmas tree lighting to Christmas cookie baking and volunteering at your local soup kitchen. The little things make the holidays way more special and stress-free, which are all important for mental health and wellness,” says Kristina LaRue RD, CSSD from Love and Zest.

12. Slow It Down. Finding time for relaxation is important this time of year. “Take time for yourself. We can get pretty busy during this time, which causes a lot of stress and can lead to less supportive dietary choices. Be sure to have a timeout or two over the next month where you can relax, slow down and not be rushing. You’ll be amazed at the results,” says Mary Purdy, MS, RDN, and Host of Mary’s Nutrition Show.

By Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN and Julie Suttle, MS, Dietetic Intern

For other ideas on how to manage the holidays healthfully, check out the following blogs:

Make Your Next Meal a Mediation
45 Plant Powered Holiday Vegetable Recipes
25 Plant Based Holiday Treats for Kids
Top 6 Exercise Tips to Stay Motivated and Acheive Your Goals

One thought on “Dietitians’ Top Nutrition Tips for Surviving the Holidays

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