Eating Healthy During the Holiday Season



Looking for some quick nutrition tips during the holiday season? Well I have some great tips that I came up with along with the help of Nutrition 411.

Healthy Holiday Eating

Food is everywhere during the holiday season, making it tough to stick to your healthful eating and exercise habits. However, with a little attention, you can make it through the holidays without losing track of your healthy lifestyle.

Is it true that the average person gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day?
People often do gain weight during the holidays, but how much weight? In 2000, a study of 195 adults showed an average holiday weight gain of between .75 pounds (lb) and 1 lb. However, 14% of those studied gained 5 lb or more. In this study, those who were overweight or obese gained more holiday pounds than those who were normal weight. According to the study, while most people gain less than 1 lb during the holidays, the holiday weight gain is one reason that your weight creeps up from year to year.

What can I do to prevent gaining weight over the holidays?
Are you dreading the holiday season because you think you will gain back all of the weight you have lost in the last 6 months? The best advice is to change your mind-set. Do not expect to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Instead, focus on not gaining weight. For success, keep a regular exercise pattern and healthy diet during this time. After all, the fine food of the holiday is one of the pleasures of the season.

Allow yourself to splurge on foods that make your holiday season meaningful. Enjoy your favorites in small amounts. Try to cut back in other ways, and keep your exercise schedule on track.

What can I do to stay active when I am traveling and cannot get to my gym?
Exercising during the hectic and sometimes stressful holiday season can help you maintain your weight and sanity. If you are a true “gym rat,” most gyms will allow you to visit as a guest, although sometimes at a hefty fee! Walking, running, or stair-climbing are easy when you are traveling—you can do these activities almost anywhere. For resistance training, check your sporting goods store or online for rubber resistance bands. They slip easily into a travel bag and are lightweight—use them to strengthen and tone almost any body part.

You may need to adjust your expectations for holiday exercising. Try to stay flexible. Know that you might miss out on some workouts. Sneak in exercise whenever you can by taking a walk after a large meal, for example. Make sure to get back to your regular exercise routine when you return home.

How can I stay on track and not overeat at holiday functions?
You can keep your calorie intake under control in many ways. Try these tips and see which ones work best for you:

  • Survey the entire table before you take any food. Decide what foods are worth eating and which you can ignore, and then stick to that decision. Why waste calories on foods that do not bring you pleasure?
  • Eat a snack before you leave home. If you arrive at a party starving, you are more likely to eat too much.
  • Eat your calories instead of drinking them. Stick to lower calorie or calorie-free drinks (diet sodas, water, lite beer, or a wine spritzer), instead of punches, eggnog, and mixed drinks that can have up to 500 calories/cup.
  • 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.
  • When you are hosting, make sure the menu includes lower-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. When you are a guest, bring along a lower-calorie dish to share.
  • Try not to hang out near the food. Find a comfortable spot across the room, and focus on people instead of eating.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Do not cover your plate completely with food. When it comes to holiday sweets and alcoholic beverages, less is better.
  • Drop out of the “clean plate club.” Leave a few bites behind every time you eat, especially if you are eating something you do not really care for.
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but take a small portion, eat slowly, and savor the taste and texture of the wonderful foods of the season.
  • Visit these websites for free reduced-calorie and reduced-fat recipes:

Party nuts
Nuts (think almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and cashews) provide a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat and fiber, which have both been shown to have an effect in lowering unhealthy blood cholesterol. Nuts also contain a compound called L-arginine, which can help your artery walls become more flexible, leading to less risk for blood clots. One ounce of nuts (approximately 22 almonds) is the perfect portion to reap the benefits of this party food.

Mashed or roasted potatoes
White potatoes (think russet, fingerling, red gold, Yukon gold) contain vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and vitamin C. One cup of potatoes contains 32% of the daily recommended intake (DRI) for vitamin B6, which plays essential roles in red blood cell production, carbohydrate metabolism, and neurotransmitter production.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain fiber, vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, among many other nutrients. One medium sweet potato contains 214% of the DRI for Vitamin A, which plays a role in vision and immune health as well as cell growth. Fat is essential for maximum absorption for vitamin A, and other fat-soluble vitamins. As little as 5 g of fat (1.5 teaspoons of olive oil) is enough to ensure proper absorbency of vitamin A. The fiber in sweet potatoes, 4 g in a medium sweet potato, promotes gut regularity, which is something to be thankful for during the holiday stress!

Green beans
Green beans are not only great for adding a change of color to your holiday plate, they also come with plenty of nutritional benefits for which to be thankful. For starters, green beans are low in calories; only 45 calories per cup, which means you can have as many as you want without the guilt! Green beans have practically every vitamin and mineral present in their composition. One cup of green beans contains 22% of the DRI for vitamin K, which is essential in blood clotting and bone formation, and is oftentimes a harder vitamin to come across.

Root vegetables 
Root vegetables (turnips, beets, carrots, parsnips) add a natural and earthy flavor to any meal and can be prepared in many different ways to satisfy even the pickiest eater. Thanks to the plethora of root vegetables and varied colors, most vitamins and minerals can be obtained. One medium turnip provides over 50% of daily vitamin C needs! The beta carotene found in beets and carrots are linked to vision and skin health. Finally, a half cup of parsnips provides 11% of daily folate needs, which is necessary for energy and red blood cell metabolism.

Baked apples
Not only do baked apples provide an alternative to more calorically dense holiday desserts, apples also pack a punch when it comes to water content, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Specifically, apples (as well as oranges and bananas) contain the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to fight neurological cell death. Try sprinkling cinnamon on top of baked apples for additional health benefits, including antibacterial and antifungal properties. Cinnamon may also have a positive effect on blood sugar and lipid levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Cranberry dishes
Cranberries add an antioxidant power to your holiday meal, thanks to vitamins C and E. They are perhaps best know for fighting urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to a specific compound in cranberries, proanthocyanidins (PACs), which work to inhibit bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls. This same mechanism also works in the mouth. PACs inhibit bacteria from adhering to the teeth, which reduces the risk for dental cavities and gum disease.

Pumpkin pie 
Pumpkin pie is one of the healthiest holiday desserts thanks to the nutrients found in its main ingredient. Pumpkin contains excellent sources of fiber, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and zinc, which have varied roles in the body from carbohydrate and fat metabolism, enzyme production, blood sugar control, skin integrity, energy production, and antioxidant protection. Pumpkin seeds are also a nutrient powerhouse; just 1 oz (1/4 cup) of seeds provides 74% of the DRI for manganese.

The main ingredient in eggnog is milk, which has an abundance of health benefits. Milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which are both essential for strong bones, teeth, and muscles. Most eggnogs also usually contain cinnamon and nutmeg. Some of the health benefits of cinnamon are described above. In regards to nutmeg, the spice contains a compound, macelignan, which has been shown to have antimicrobial properties and is currently being studied in treatments for drug-resistant cancers. There are many light eggnog products on the market or a lighter recipe can be found at

Want to have a healthier holiday season this year? Take this quiz to test your knowledge of calories and fat in traditional holiday foods.

  1. Which appetizer contains the least amount of fat?
    1. 1 ounce (oz) of brie cheese
    2. 1 oz of mixed nuts
    3. 1 tablespoon of hummus
  2. Which cookie has the most calories?
    1. 2″ lemon square
    2. One medium chocolate chip cookie
    3. Five commercial gingerbread cookies
  3. Which cocktail has the least calories?
    1. A rum and Coke®
    2. A martini
    3. A whiskey sour
  4. Which candy has the least fat?
    1. 2″ square cube of chocolate fudge
    2. One medium piece of peanut brittle
    3. One medium piece of homemade toffee
  5. Which meat has the most fat?
    1. 3 oz of boneless ham (lean and fat eaten)
    2. 3 oz of boneless duck (skin eaten)
    3. 3 oz of boneless cooked chicken leg (skin eaten)
  6. Which food has the most sodium?
    1. ½ cup (C) of homemade bread stuffing
    2. ½ C of homemade mashed potatoes
    3. One dinner roll
  7. Which warm beverage has the fewest calories?
    1. 1 C of hot chocolate made with whole milk
    2. 1 C of apple cider
    3. 1 C of eggnog  made with whole milk
  8. Which of the following contains the most sugar?
    1. 2″ square brownie
    2. One piece of fruit cake
    3. 10 chocolate-covered peanuts






  1. c.  1 tablespoon of hummus
    The hummus contains 1.3 grams (g) of fat, the brie contains 8 g, and the nuts contain 15 g.
  2. c.  Five commercial gingerbread cookies
    The gingerbread cookies contain 147 calories, the lemon square contains 140 calories, and the chocolate chip cookie contains 50 calories.
  3. b.  A martini
    The martini contains 135 calories, the whiskey sour contains 158 calories, and the rum and Coke contains 211 calories.
  4. c.  One medium piece of homemade toffee
    The toffee contains 4 g of fat, the peanut brittle contains 5 g, and the fudge contains 6 g.
  5. b.  3 oz of boneless duck (skin eaten)
    The duck contains 9 g of fat, the ham contains 3 g, and the chicken leg contains 8 g.
  6. a.½ C of homemade bread stuffing
    The stuffing contains 479 milligrams (mg) of sodium, the mashed potatoes 119 mg, and the dinner roll 117 mg.
  7. b. 1 C of apple cider
    The apple cider has 104 calories, the hot chocolate 192 calories, and the eggnog contains 244 calories.
  8. a.  2″ square brownie
    The brownie contains 21 g of sugar, the chocolate-covered peanuts 15 g, and the fruit cake 13 g.