Holiday Eating Tips
By O2X Nutrition Specialist Kelli Reese, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
The holiday season is upon us, which likely means more food than we know what to with. From mouthwatering meals to delicious desserts and scrumptious sides, food seems to be around every corner. It can be hard to navigate special occasions when you’re trying to make healthy choices. However, it is possible to have your pumpkin pie and eat it too! Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while celebrating this year.
6 Holiday Nutrition Hacks to Try this Season
1. Follow the plate method
The plate method is an easy way to visualize portions of food on your plate. While you can use traditional methods of measurement (i.e. measuring cups and spoons), a simpler way of measuring portions is by visually dividing your plate into three sections.
For the first section, fill half of your plate with any non-starchy vegetables or a combination of vegetables, like a side salad, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, etc. The next section takes up a quarter of the plate. This portion should be a lean protein of your choice. Lastly, the remaining quarter can be any carbohydrate or a starchy vegetable, like potatoes or corn.
2. Choose 2 splurge items (and make them count!)
Research shows that the more food options we have the more we tend to eat, no matter what the options are. This can make it especially difficult to control what we eat during special occasions, potlucks, and holiday meals where the options of tasty treats may seem endless.
A good way to get around this, while also enjoying some of your favorite foods, is to first survey the scene, and then pick two “splurge” items to enjoy. Make them count. For example, let’s say a family member makes your favorite pumpkin pie, and you only get this particular pie once a year, or a friend brings in their famous seven layer dip you’ve heard all about. You could argue that these are well worth the indulgence, versus someone’s store bought brownies you could hypothetically get any day of week. Take your fill of your favorite two items, and fill the rest of your plate with healthy high protein, high fiber options, like lean meats and vegetables.
3. Alternate ETOH beverages with water or choose low calorie options
We all know the holidays are a time of celebration, which brings together delectable food and delicious drinks. Since over-consuming calories from beverages is easier to do than with food, we also need to pay close attention to what we’re drinking. If you choose to drink alcohol you can easily cut down the calories by drinking lower calorie drinks like wine, light beer, seltzer drink or a single liquor drink mixed with a zero calorie mixer. It’s also important to pay attention to the total number of drinks consumed. Alternate one alcoholic beverage with two glasses of water or zero calorie beverage to pace yourself and not overdo it. Lastly, I should point out that CDC guidelines for alcohol are one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men – and no, it does not allow for “saving up” drinks for one night.
4. Small portions of each items – a couple spoonfuls
If you simply find it too hard to stick to the plate method or the two “splurge” item suggestions above, another way to enjoy what you want is to follow the small portion guide. Taking a spoonful-helping of several of your favorite items still allows you to enjoy everything that you want while keeping the portions and excess calories in check.
5. Eat normally throughout the day / don’t deprive yourself
This rule should be followed no matter which of the above strategies you go with at your special event. Depravation is one of the biggest triggers of binge eating and overeating. If you find yourself intentionally (or for that matter accidentally) not eating enough during the day leading up to the get together, stop! Make sure you’re still eating a balanced breakfast and lunch with adequate calories, whole grains, and lean protein. This could save you from walking into the party/holiday meal with the intentional mentality of eating everything until making yourself sick.
6. Keep the celebrating to one day
Depending on what holidays we celebrate and how many holiday parties we go to, keep in mind that the actual number of days on which holidays fall on are actually rather small. We tend to look at the “holidays” as a two and a half month long celebration when it’s really just a few days that span the length of a couple months. Save your calories and efforts for the days that actually matter during the next couple months, the days that holidays fall on. Basically what I’m saying is, there’s no need to go crazy on a random Tuesday night in December.
It’s not all about food
Lastly, we all should remember that the holidays are not just about food. For a lot of us who weren’t able to celebrate with loved ones last year, 2021 marks the end of a long awaited chance to celebrate this special time of year with friends and family. While food tastes good and may be a culturally significant part of your holidays, it’s the people who really make it special! So while we all look forward to grandma’s famous pumpkin pie, it’s the calorie-free time spent with loved ones that matters most.
About the Specialist:
Kelli Reese is an O2X Nutrition Specialist. She is also a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University, her internship at The University of Akron, and her master’s degree in nutrition from Arizona State University. Kelli has been with University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio since 2013 as a Clinical Dietitian and Wellness Coach, where she works with patients one-on-one and in large and small group settings. When it comes to nutrition, she enjoys busting nutrition myths and educating people on proper fueling for exercise and performance. She believes healthy eating doesn’t have to mean giving up the foods we love, knowledge is power, and practice makes permanent.