5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

I wake up with excitement when the holiday season approaches. The festive decorations, the warmth of family and friends, the delicious food – everything brings a smile to my face.

However, as a dietitian, I know that some of my clients dread this time of the year. They worry about overindulging in unhealthy food and ruining their healthy habits.

I always reassure them that there are ways to plan a healthy holiday. It’s all about balance – enjoy the treats, but also make sure to prioritize nutrient-rich options and stay active.

With a little planning and conscious decision-making, you can savor the holiday season and stay on track with your health goals.

The holidays can be a tough time to stick to a healthy eating plan. But don’t worry, I am here to help. My goal is to offer you healthy eating tips for the holidays that you can use to stay on track this holiday season. I will cover eating healthy during the holidays, money saving meal ideas and more.

From choosing healthier options at parties to making sure you don’t overindulge, these tips will help you maintain your healthy lifestyle without sacrificing any of the fun.

Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy the holidays while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are five helpful tips to help you eat healthier during the holidays without missing out on the festivities.

Before leaving for a holiday gathering, make sure to eat a small, healthy snack such as a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. This will help curb your appetite, and prevent you from overeating at the event. Show up to the gathering with a full stomach, so that you’re less tempted to indulge in calorie-dense foods like chips or candy.

One of the biggest challenges at holiday gatherings is the abundance of food. It can be tempting to go back for seconds or to try all of the different dishes. However, it’s essential to be mindful of your portion sizes at these events.

Healthy Recipes

Use a smaller plate or bowl, and take smaller portions of each dish. You can always go back for more if you’re still hungry after finishing your first plate.

Drinking alcohol at holiday gatherings is a common occurrence. However, alcohol contains empty calories, and overconsumption can lead to poor food choices and overeating.

Stick to one or two glasses of wine, beer, or a cocktail. Alternatively, you can have a mocktail or a non-alcoholic beverage to stay hydrated throughout the event.

If you are going to a potluck-style event, bring a healthy dish that you can enjoy guilt-free. This way, you will have at least one option on the table that aligns with your healthy eating habits. Some ideas include roasted vegetables, a salad, or a fruit platter.

Why Skipping Meals May Be Sabotaging Your Health Goals

One of the main reasons why skipping meals can sabotage your health goals is that it slows down your metabolism. When you go for long periods without food, your body goes into “starvation mode” and tries to conserve energy by slowing down your metabolism.

This can actually cause your body to hold onto fat stores, making it more difficult to lose weight in the long run. To keep your metabolism running smoothly, it’s important to eat small, healthy meals throughout the day.

Census Bureau Serves a Hearty Spread of Holiday Food Industry Statistics

Another downside of skipping meals is that it can lead to overeating later on. When you skip a meal, you may feel hungry and deprived, which can cause you to eat larger portions or make unhealthy food choices when it finally comes time to eat.

Additionally, skipping meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, making you feel sluggish and more likely to reach for sugary snacks or drinks to give you a quick boost of energy.

Skipping meals can also affect your energy levels and mood throughout the day. When you don’t eat regularly, your body may not have the fuel it needs to perform at its best. This can leave you feeling tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate.

Eating healthy meals throughout the day can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels and keep your energy levels consistent.

In addition to affecting your weight and energy levels, skipping meals can also have negative effects on your overall health. Regularly skipping meals can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which can weaken your immune system and leave you more susceptible to illness.

Additionally, skipping meals can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

If you are looking to avoid skipping meals and maintain a healthy diet throughout the holidays, there are a few tips you can follow.

  • First, try to eat small, healthy meals every few hours to keep your metabolism running smoothly.
  • Second, make sure to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Finally, be mindful of your portion sizes and try to avoid overeating by eating slowly and paying attention to your hunger cues.
Family eating tips for the holidays.

Tips for Hosting Vegetarian Holiday Visitors

Are you planning on hosting vegetarian guests, but aren’t sure what to serve or how to prepare?

Being a host can be challenging, especially when it comes to entertaining vegetarian visitors. But don’t worry, we have got you covered.

Know Their Dietary Restrictions

Before you start planning the meals, it is always important to know what your vegetarian guests are comfortable eating. There are many different types of vegetarian diets, including lacto-ovo vegetarians, pescatarians, and vegans, among others.

Make sure you ask them what they don’t eat, and be sure you know the differences between each type. This will help ensure that you do not mistakenly offer any foods that are not suitable for them.

Plan Your Meals in Advance

When hosting vegetarian visitors, it is important to plan your meals ahead of time. This will ensure that you have ample time to prepare tasty and healthy vegetarian meals, including appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts.

Also, making meals in advance prevents the possibility of running out of food or having to resort to less-than-creative solutions that can be off-putting to your guests.

Use Local and Seasonal Produce

Vegetarian meals are generally plant-based, so you want to ensure that the ingredients are fresh, in season, and of superior quality. You’ll also want to offer a good variety of natural and colorful foods since these are the staples of the vegetarian diet.

You can find fresh produce at your local farmer’s market or grocery stores that carry locally-grown foods. If buying produce is troubling in these times, there are many fresh and packaged vegetarian options that are widely available as well.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination is a big concern when cooking for vegetarians. It happens when food comes into contact with something that was previously in contact with non-vegetarian items.

As a host, it is essential that you take the necessary precautions to avoid this issue. You will have to use separate utensils, cutting boards, and dishes when cooking commercial meat and your vegetarian meals separately.

Be Creative and Fun

Did you know that having fun, simple, and creative mealtime experiences is the best way to ensure your vegetarian guests are happy and satisfied? Keep this in mind when planning your menus.

Try new and exciting fruit, vegetable, and grain combinations. Also, don’t forget to introduce new dishes that they may not have tried before.

Consider involving them in the meal preparation process or cooking together which could lead to a fun and memorable experience for both you and your vegetarian guests.

Healthy Food Swaps for the Holidays 

Butter is a staple ingredient in many holiday recipes, but using it in excess can add unnecessary calories and fat to your meals. Instead, try using Greek yogurt or applesauce as a healthier alternative to your baked goods.

Greek yogurt contains protein and probiotics, which can be beneficial for gut health. Applesauce is low in fat and calories and adds natural sweetness. By swapping out butter for Greek yogurt or applesauce, you can enjoy your favorite holiday treats guilt-free.

Most holiday baking recipes call for white flour, but making the switch to whole wheat flour can provide added nutritional value. Whole wheat flour is high in fiber, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied. It also contains more vitamins and minerals than white flour.

While the taste and texture may be slightly different, using whole wheat flour in your baking is an easy way to add more nutrients to your holiday meals.

Sugary holiday drinks like eggnog and pumpkin spice lattes can be a major source of added sugar in your diet. Instead, opt for a refreshing drink like sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice. This not only cuts down on added sugar but also provides a hydrating and flavorful alternative.

Try adding a splash of cranberry juice to your sparkling water for a festive and healthy holiday drink.

Mashed potatoes are a classic holiday side dish, but they can also be high in calories and carbs. Instead, try using mashed cauliflower or zucchini as a healthier alternative.

Cauliflower is low in carbs and high in fiber, making it a great option for those watching their carb intake. Zucchini contains essential vitamins and minerals and has a similar texture to mashed potatoes once cooked.

By swapping out mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower or zucchini, you can still enjoy a hearty and satisfying side dish without the added calories and carbs.

Excess salt can lead to bloating and high blood pressure, so try using spices and herbs as an alternative for flavoring your holiday dishes.

Herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage can add depth and aroma to savory dishes, while spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger can add warmth and sweetness to desserts. By using spices and herbs instead of salt, you can still enjoy flavorful and tasty holiday meals without the negative health effects of excess salt.

The Benefits of Drinking Plenty of Water Throughout the Holidays

One of the main benefits of drinking plenty of water during the holidays is that it can help you feel full and prevent overeating. When you drink water before or after a meal, it can help fill up your stomach, reducing the amount of food you eat.

Drinking water throughout the day can also help you maintain a sense of fullness, preventing unhealthy snacking and overindulging in calorie-dense foods.

Hydrating your body with water can help promote healthy digestion, which is especially important during the holidays when we tend to consume large amounts of rich, fatty foods. Water helps break down foods in the stomach, allowing your body to absorb nutrients more efficiently. It can also help prevent constipation and bloating, common issues that can arise when our diets become too rich.

During the holidays, we may drink more alcohol and less water, which can lead to dehydration. Not only can dehydration cause headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, but it can also lead to overeating.

When our bodies are dehydrated, they can mistake the sensation of thirst for hunger, leading us to eat more than we need. By drinking plenty of water, we can prevent dehydration and avoid overeating.

Drinking water can also help improve the appearance of your skin. Keeping your body hydrated can flush out toxins, reducing the likelihood of breakouts and blemishes.

Additionally, dry skin can be a common issue during the winter months, and drinking plenty of water can help keep your skin moisturized and healthy-looking.

During the holidays, it’s easy to consume sugary beverages like eggnog, hot cocoa, and soda. While these drinks can be indulgent treats, they are not the best options for everyday consumption.

Holiday Foods in Moderation

Mindful eating is all about being present in the moment and fully aware of what you are eating. Start by taking a few deep breaths before your meal and really appreciate your food.

Pay attention to the colors, textures, and the flavor of each bite. Take small bites, chew slowly, and savor each one. This will help you feel more satisfied with smaller portions, and you’ll be less likely to overeat.

While it’s okay to indulge in your favorite holiday dishes, it’s essential to watch your portions. Use smaller plates, which will trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more than you are.

Serve yourself a small portion of your favorite dish and enjoy it slowly. If you are still hungry, wait a few minutes before deciding to take more. It takes time for our brains to register when we’re full, so always eat mindfully and listen to your body’s signals.

The key to enjoying your holiday food in moderation is to find a balance between indulgence and deprivation. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods will only make you crave them more, leading to overindulgence.

However, it’s also essential not to go overboard and eat everything in sight. The key is to choose the foods you love, savor them, and stop when you are full. Last but not least, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up overindulging in your favorite holiday treats. Instead, focus on practicing moderation and mindfulness. If you happen to overindulge, don’t punish yourself. Remember, you have the power to make healthier choices moving forward.

Money-Saving Eating Tips for the Holidays

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and of course, food. Many people overspend and overindulge during this season, which can lead to regret and financial strain.

However, with a little planning and discipline, you can enjoy a delicious holiday meal without breaking the bank. Here are some money-saving eating tips for the holidays that will help you stay on budget while still enjoying a fantastic feast.

Avoid Trends

Trends can be tempting, but they can also be expensive. Instead, look for timeless recipes that you can enjoy year after year, without spending a fortune on trendy ingredients or preparation methods.

Plan your menu carefully.

Before you start planning your meal, take some time to research recipes and compare prices at different grocery stores. Consider choosing dishes that use seasonal ingredients that are more affordable and readily available. Look for recipes that use fewer ingredients or that can be prepared in advance, which can save time and money.

Prepare Less

To avoid wasting food, try not to overestimate how much your guests will eat. Start by cooking smaller portions, and if you need more, you can always prepare additional servings later.

Don’t buy pre-made sides.

Pre-made sides can be convenient, but they can also be more expensive than making them from scratch. Take some time to research recipes and make your own instead.

Serve it Simple

There’s no need to go overboard with fancy dishes or complicated side dishes. Simple, classic recipes can be just as delicious and impressive. Consider serving traditional holiday dishes with a twist to add interest without breaking the bank.

Shop Smart

Be sure to compare prices at different stores and take advantage of coupons and sale prices. Consider purchasing generic or store-brand products, which are often less expensive than branded products. Also, don’t forget to check out discount grocery stores for bargains on holiday staples.

Cook Ahead

Cooking ahead of time not only saves time on the day of your holiday, but it can also save money by allowing you to take advantage of advance sales or store discount pricing. Casseroles, bread, and desserts are items that can be prepped ahead of time.

Trim protein costs.

Protein can be expensive, so consider limiting the number of meat or seafood dishes, or look for alternative sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, or tofu. You can also opt for less expensive cuts of meat, or try using meat as a garnish instead of the main course.

Make smart beverage choices.

Alcohol and soft drinks can be expensive, but there are ways to save. Consider serving a signature cocktail, along with non-alcoholic options such as a seasonal punch or fruit-infused water. You could also ask guests to bring their favorite beverage to share.

Get your money’s worth of leftovers.

After the holiday meal, be sure to store any leftovers properly, so they don’t go to waste. Leftovers can be used for meals or snacks later in the week, making them an excellent value.

Top 5 Holiday Foods with the Most Amount of Fat


A popular holiday drink, eggnog is rich, creamy, and loaded with fat. One glass of eggnog (one cup) can contain up to 343 calories and 11 grams of fat. To put that into perspective, a slice of cheese pizza has approximately 12 grams of fat.

If you are an eggnog lover, try making your own eggnog using unsweetened almond milk and natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. You can also use non-fat or low-fat milk instead of heavy cream.

One easy and delicious healthier eggnog alternative is to use almond milk instead of heavy cream. Almond milk is lower in calories and fat but still has a creamy texture that will make you feel like you’re not missing out on anything.

Plus, adding warming spices like nutmeg and cinnamon will help boost your immune system and aid digestion.


Gravy, a staple of holiday meals, is delicious but can also be high in fat. One-quarter cup of gravy can have up to 8 grams of fat and 50 calories.

To lower the fat content in gravy, use vegetable stock instead of chicken or beef stock. You can also use cornstarch instead of flour to thicken it up.

Consider using vegetable broth or skim milk as the base instead of traditional drippings from meat. You can also add herbs and spices to elevate the flavor without relying on excess fat.

By making these small adjustments, you can still enjoy the scrumptiousness of holiday gravy without worrying about any unwanted extra calories.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes are healthy, but when baked with butter and topped with marshmallows, they can turn into a high-fat indulgence. A small serving of sweet potato casserole can contain up to 400 calories and 16 grams of fat.

To make a healthier version of this dish, use unsweetened applesauce instead of butter and top with chopped nuts instead of marshmallows.

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a holiday classic, but one slice can contain up to 500 calories and 27 grams of fat. That’s more than a McDonald’s double cheeseburger!

To enjoy a healthier version of this dessert, try making a crustless pecan pie with a smaller amount of natural sweeteners. You can also add some cinnamon and nutmeg to add flavor without adding extra calories.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a comfort food that complements any holiday meal, but they can be high in fat. One cup of mashed potatoes can contain up to 238 calories and 9 grams of fat.

To make them healthier, mix in some fat-free sour cream or plain Greek yogurt instead of butter. You can also add garlic and herbs for added flavor.

I hope these tips for eating healthy this holiday have been helpful to you. Happy holidays!

Nicole Ciuppa, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

University of Houston

WELCOME TO NUTRITIONALLY NICOLE — Your Online Home of Nutrition, Food Allergy Advocacy, and Wellness – YouTube

Top 5 Eating tips for the holidays covering healthy food swaps and hosting vegetarian visitors. Money-saving meal plans with holiday foods to avoid.

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