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Eating healthy during the holidays

November 21, 2023 

With Christmas and New Year celebrations approaching, many people are looking forward to enjoying the food typically served during the holidays. How do you enjoy your holiday meals while still making healthy choices?

The key is portion control – having a small sampling rather than filling your plate. If there are certain foods you cannot imagine missing, put a small amount on your plate to get a taste without overloading on the calories. 

Below are more tips to help avoiding calorie overload while still enjoying holiday meals:
  • Prepare ahead of time: Eat a light breakfast and/or lunch. If you skip meals and go into the family meal hungry, it will be harder to make reasonable and healthy choices. Also, get in some exercises that day and drink plenty of water before and after the meal to keep your stomach full and to promote healthy digestion.
  • Be selective on snacks: If snacks are offered prior to the meal, seek out the vegetable and fruit tray instead of heading to the chips, crackers, cheeses and sausages. Use minimal dip or skip it altogether. If making a dip, consider using yogurt, which has fewer calories, instead of sour cream and mayonnaise.
  • Defer on sugary drinks: Pick low-calorie drinks. Water is ideal but sugar-free or low-calorie beverages such as diet soda, sugar-free lemonade or unsweetened iced tea are good alternatives. Avoid or limit alcoholic drinks as they also carry added sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Balance your plate: Half your plate should be vegetable sides. The best options are roasted or steamed vegetables and salad. Pick a lean protein – white meat is better than dark meat. Keep high-calorie, high-carbohydrate sides to a minimum. Just one-quarter of your total plate should have mashed potatoes, noodles and stuffing. Go easy on gravy, sauces and salad dressing as those can add extra calories quickly.
  • Limit desserts: You do not have to skip dessert if you are smart about your choices. The best choice is pumpkin pie, which has less sugar than pecan pie. Regardless of available options, prioritize. Have just one small serving of your favorite. If you cannot decide on a favorite, have a small selection of tiny servings. Then stop, move away from the food and find something else to do like play a game or go on walk rather than linger at the buffet table.
For more healthy eating tips for the holidays, visit cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/holidays-healthy-eating.html.
Eating healthy during the holidays