Healthy Holiday Dining

Holidays are perfect times to enjoy life with friends and family. Holidays (especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve) are also times when we can easily eat too much food that is high in calories and fat. That can mean an extra 5 or 10 pounds when the holidays are over. 

But weight gain during the holiday season does not have to happen! We can enjoy the foods of the season without adding weight.  Just remember these healthy holiday eating tips from the Family Guide – Healthy Holiday Eating from SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). 

  • Eat Before the Party:  Before a holiday event, eat a snack or light meal. Foods high in protein, like chicken or cottage cheese, help you to eat less later. Not eating ahead of time may lead you to overeat.
  • Offer Healthy Choices to Guests:  Include nonalcoholic beverages and healthier items such as vegetables and fruit on the menu. Putting these items out first will give everyone a better chance of not overdoing it with high-fat, high-calorie choices.
  • If You Are the Guest:  Offer to bring a low-calorie dish to holiday parties. Your host might like it, and you'll know that at least one healthy item will be there.
  • Don't Stand By the Food: If you stand by the food table, you'll eat more than you would if it was across the room.
  • Use Healthier Ingredients:  You may be able to use low-fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk products in some dishes. In some baked goods, you can swap applesauce for oil. Substitutions can create tasty results without the high calories that often come with rich foods.
  • Eat Smaller Portions:  Eat tempting holiday foods, but use restraint. This is especially important at a buffet, where you may want to try everything. Choose the items you want to try the most, and eat a small portion of each.
  • Don't Forget Nutrition:  Be sure that you and your family members are getting enough of the healthy foods your bodies need. Snacks and desserts are fine, but they're not meals. Make sure everyone keeps his or her nutritional balance with servings that include fruits and veggies.
  • Washing It Down:  What you drink during the holidays can add calories. Look at all of your options. Alcoholic drinks, sodas and many fruit punches can have lots of calories. Instead, look for diet sodas and flavored waters.
  • Eat Slowly. Many times, people eat so fast that their stomachs don't have enough time to register that they are full. Enjoy the taste of the food. Chances are you will eat less.
  • Get Your Exercise:  After a meal, go for a walk with your family to see holiday displays in your neighborhood.
  • Forget the Fast Food:  The holiday season can keep you on the go with little time to prepare meals. Fast food may be quick, but can be high in fat. Prepare and freeze healthy meals ahead of time instead of eating fast food.
  • Be Realistic. Don't try to diet during the holidays; just try to maintain your present weight. 

Food and holiday gatherings go hand in hand. So join in and help yourself to favorite holiday treats. With a little planning, you'll enjoy the holidays without the regret that many of us feel the when we step on a scale in the new year. 


Family Guide for Healthy Holiday Eating, SAMSHA   

American Heart Association, Holiday and Healthy Eating Tips and Recipes!EatingHealthy_booklet.pdf    

This information is for education only. It is not medical advice. Please ask your doctor for advice about changes that may affect your health. 

Reviewed by:

Richard L. Lane MD., Managing Medical Director, KY

Lynette Cooper RN CMCN  Legal Specialist Sr