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Nutrition: Fitting in Your Holiday Favorites

Posted on November 16, 2018 by Jaclyn Murphy, RDN, Dietitian

“It’s impossible to eat well during the holiday season” is a phrase we may all hear far too often. And while we may be tempted to overindulge in our seasonal favorites, we can all develop a healthy approach to food and eating pattern using the simple tips below to give a bigger reason to enjoy the holidays guilt-free and stick to your health goals year-round!
Prioritize the day. Start the day with a balanced breakfast, followed by regular meal times. This can allow you to maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day and prevent overeating at your next meal. If your holiday gathering is later in the day, consider a smart snack that includes a carbohydrate with a lean protein and/or heart healthy fat. One small apple or pear with 6 to 12 almonds or 1/3 cup hummus with 1 cup cut vegetables can help satisfy hunger, as the holiday food spread can make it hard to control choices on an empty stomach.
Next, think about providing a healthy appetizer or dessert to share good health with others. Prepare a quick veggie platter with Greek yogurt dip or get creative in the kitchen with a simple substitution (such as unsweetened applesauce for oil in baked goods), which can please a crowd and provide a nutrient-dense option that is sure to fit in your plan.
Balance your plate. Dinner is served and as holiday meals can be rich in sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories, approach your plate with confidence. If available, try using a smaller plate to aid in portioning foods. Start by filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables that are low in calories and fiber-rich, followed by a quarter of your plate lean protein and a quarter whole grains.

A healthy eating pattern can include dessert if you wish! Stick to a single, small portion of Nana’s pumpkin pie that you’ve been dreaming about all year or choose fresh fruit as a substitute for refined sweets.

Savor the flavor! While there may be an endless variety of sides and sweets available at your next gathering, work on being mindful of your choices. Sit down, enjoy the company, and savor the flavor, texture and aroma of foods you may only be available to enjoy once a year. There is no need to label foods as good or bad, but work to find the balance at your meal and the right amount to satisfy your desire. 
Being present during the holidays will allow you to truly enjoy the season, while keeping a closer eye on your intake. Be in tune to your hunger: Ask yourself "On a scale from 1 to 10, how hungry am I?" Start your meal if you are at three or four and stop when you are just full and satisfied enough, around a six. Also think about waiting 10-20 minutes before reaching for second or third helpings to allow time for your hunger cue to set in.
Lastly, as always, make each time you eat an opportunity to make a better choice. If you do happen to overindulge, get right back on track at your next meal.
So whether it’s your turn to host or if you are dining as a guest, consider these healthful holiday tips to fit in your holiday food favorites!
If you are interested in meeting with a registered dietitian to learn more about a wide range of personalized services including menu planning, refrigerator makeovers, supermarket shopping, advice about what to order in restaurants, personal chef referrals, lunch box ideas, collaborative cooking instruction and recipes, please contact Joe Juliano, RDN Nutrition and Wellness Manager, The Valley Hospital, at 201-447-8093 or


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