McFarland Clinic

3 Tips to Keep Holiday Eating in Check

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November 27, 2014

While the holiday cheer and family time is always special, the holidays can spell disaster for healthful lifestyle plans. After all, it gets a lot harder to say no to calorie-dense, nutrient-light foods when you’re faced with holiday party after holiday party, and between all the festivities, it’s much harder to sneak in a workout.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Americans gain an average of 0.4 to 1.8 pounds each year during the holidays. Unfortunately, this weight isn’t likely to disperse with the holiday cheer. It tends to stick around.

Nancy Schive, RD, suggests trying these three tips to make a healthful lifestyle during the holidays not only possible, but downright easy.

1. Get Active Around the House

It may be difficult to carve out a 60-90 minute sweat session during the hustle and bustle of holiday planning, but seize those 5-10 minute breaks and commit them to working different muscle groups with hand weights. 

If you don’t have time to go out and buy your own set of weights, try lifting water bottles, soup cans, or any other object that you can lift safely and comfortably. If you have the equipment available and ready to go, you are more likely to actually use it. 

“Even if you can only sneak in a ten minute session or two a day, that time can really add up. When you see a window for a bit of activity, use it,” says Schive. 

2. Create a Healthful Holiday Spread

When you host a holiday party, the table doesn’t have to be groaning under the weight of calorie-dense treats like cookies and cakes, without a nutrient in sight. Instead, make fruits and veggies the stars of holiday buffets. 


  • Festive fruit or veggie platters
  • Creative roasted veggies
  • Fruit-based desserts like chocolate dipped strawberries or cinnamon apples
  • A trio of low-fat dips surrounded by fresh sliced veggies

If you’re hosting a holiday party, it’s also wise to feature healthful, balanced beverages. Consider:

  • A punch bowl filled with sparkling water and thin slices of fresh fruit.
  • Fresh fruit smoothies topped with cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Hot cocoa made with skim milk


3. Eat Smart, Especially When You’re On the Go

It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re rushing around during the holidays, but this often leads to binging on larger portions of unhealthful foods when you finally get a moment to sit down. 

“Prepare for the craziness and make some healthful alternatives ahead of time. That way, you’ll always have a quick snack or meal when you need it,” says Schive. 

Try any of the following:

  • Fill a travel mug with soup and drink it while you’re en route to the next activity. Choose smooth versions (or give chunkier soups a whirr in the blender) and stick to broth-based soups. A mug full of cream of vegetable soup may pack too many calories and too much saturated fat to be a healthful option.
  • Make a few quick wraps and store them in the fridge. Layer hummus, sliced veggies, lettuce, and low-fat cheese in a whole grain pita or wrap for an easy, portable meal.
  • When you prepare a dinner, make enough for several nights and freeze the leftovers to serve later. Lasagna, beans and casseroles all freeze beautifully.
  • Stock up on fruits that can travel “as is,” like apples, oranges, bananas, or clementines. Grab one on your way out the door and eat it as you run your errands.


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