Logo NHC

The Healthiest Ways to Eat Your Holiday Favorites

Depending on when you are reading this, it’s either winter and everyone is prepping for the holidays, or its Summer and everyone is kicking back.  Regardless the time of year, its always good to have a holiday game plan you can stay on track for your health goals.

In many situations, the holiday season ends up being a time warp, so it’s extra important to stop and think early about genuinely realistic ways to maintain your health. However, breathe a sigh of relief: you can eat your holiday favorites and stay on track with your health goals.

Goodies and health goals can happily coexist with some strategic planning! By creating specific action steps to use at holiday meals, dinner parties, galas, cookie swaps, or work outings, you can maintain your health over the holidays. This means that you don’t have to restrict yourself from eating anything “fun.” Honestly, that would be lame and would create an opportunity for binging later, which is the opposite of reaching health goals. Below are some examples of the healthiest ways to eat your holiday indulgences!

Eat Your Calories, Don’t Drink Them

Drink lots of water, especially on days where you might be tempted with lots tasty treats. If you sit next to a treat cube, you may want to drink lots of water all of the time! Not only is drinking water good for dry winter skin, but it also helps keep you from having excessive cravings. Sometimes when we are dehydrated, we mistake those thirst signals for hunger. Fewer cravings let you zero in on your favorites and less of the other stuff. There are lots of apps out there that can help you track your water.

Only Eat Your Favorites

This seems simple. We think that we would only eat the foods we like and love, but we can often find ourselves eating just to eat. Are you bonkers for mashed potatoes but also end up eating 2 store-bought dinner rolls that are just so-so? Is your grandma’s pumpkin pie the best but your dinner plate also has Auntie Kate’s creamed corn that is just meh?

Our advice: skip those foods! Don’t waste your holiday eating on things that don’t taste special or delicious. Save room for the good stuff. Also, sometimes we eat a holiday favorite and it, unfortunately, is a major letdown. It’s okay to not finish it. You hopefully will have the opportunity again very soon to have a delicious version, or you can make your own!

Make Veggies The Centerpiece

Veggie trays are a sad afterthought. It’s sort of a last-ditch effort at getting in a measly serving of vegetables. Instead, put them front and center, next to the turkey even! Play with mashed cauliflower with butter and cream. Brussels sprout slaw with bacon, almonds, and cranberries is quite festive! Try a “better” veggie tray: a crudite board that has ferments, raw veggies (try radishes, baby peppers, thin asparagus spears), pickles, olives, nuts, dried fruit and spreads like hummus or guacamole.

Eat Slowly

When you eat slowly, you are able to taste every morsel and savor every bite. You can really pick up on the nuances. Not only is the meal more enjoyable, but you also allow your brain time to assess the food. That process better helps your brain determine when you should finish your meal. Can you even have the ability to leave the meal with more energy and not feel what most people end up feeling: stuffed and lethargic. This is intuitive portion control; you aren’t forcing yourself to stop, you’re letting it happen naturally.

Eat a Breakfast High in Healthy Fat and Protein

When you eat a breakfast high in healthy fat and protein, you might find that you have fewer sugar cravings the rest of the day. It’s also easier to say ‘no’ to the goodies the look good, but you’re not crazy about. Start your day off with eggs, cheese, and salsa. Or try chicken sausages with avocado and a small amount of fruit.

Eat With Pleasure!

When you give in to pleasure and thoroughly enjoy the food you are eating, you speed up your metabolism and better regulate your appetite. Would you believe me? Most people think that pleasure is entirely separate from the nutritional process and serves no metabolic function. People believe that if food makes them feel good, the body is automatically stimulated to eat more. However, author of The Slow Down Diet, Marc David examined the relationship between our biochemistry and the chemical cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK is produced by the body in response to protein or fat in a meal and performs some versatile functions. First, it directly aids digestion by stimulating the digestive organs. When it’s released in the brain, it shuts down appetite, and it encourages the sensation of pleasure in the cerebral cortex, the highest portion of the brain.

The same chemical that functions to metabolize our meal also tells us when it’s time to finish that meal and makes us feel right about the entire experience. It shows us how pleasure, metabolism and a naturally controlled appetite are interwoven to the core. If you’re still not convinced, know that consuming treats with a full measure of delight prompts the hypothalamus to send activation signals via parasympathetic nerve fibers to the majority of our digestive organs. Digestion will be stimulated and you’ll have a fuller metabolic breakdown while burning calories more efficiently. It’s a win-win!

Go For a Walk!

Nothing beats a nice walk outside in the fresh, crisp holiday air. A quick walk can suppress your appetite, refresh you and help you burn up some energy.

Final Words

Hopefully at least one of these suggestions is something you would like to try. At the very least, consider the timing of everything. The holidays may not be the best time to lose weight compared to the rest of the year. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack. Most of my clients are focused on weight maintenance during this time. They find that they feel less pressure and it makes this time of year more enjoyable. Whatever your goals may be – have a happy, nutritious and pleasure-filled holiday!


Miranda Ebner BioMiranda is a licensed nutritionist with a Master’s in Human Nutrition. She is passionate about finding real-life solutions for her clients. Her nonjudgmental approach helps her clients tackle topics like weight loss and emotional eating. Her root cause resolutions help others overcome digestive concerns and autoimmune disease. The unique no rush approach allows Miranda to really get to know her clients and meet them where they are at. She happily works with people locally and nationally. Learn more at www.thrivenutritionmn.com