Healthful Eating Tips for Holiday Meals

It’s nearly time for the big meal, and we’ve got easy tips for mindful eating — while still enjoying that piece of pie!

Here it is, the moment you’ve been planning, shopping, and cooking for: The Big Meal. Research shows that the average holiday meal can be upwards of 3,000 calories (and that doesn’t count the little sneak of turkey or handfuls of party mix earlier in the day). Here are a few easy tips for a healthful holiday that incorporate everything from channeling that zen holiday mindset to table settings to help you not just survive the day but also enjoy it. 

It’s All About Perspective

Remember, this is a special day. What you do today doesn’t mean you’ll never eat healthy again, or that your wellness goals for the year have been officially blown. Keep up your regular healthy routines all season long so that you can enjoy everything — from the wine to the Yule Log cake — when you’re celebrating with friends and family.

Set a Healthy Table

Channel your grandmother’s holiday table look, and use that old family china. The vintage plates will not only make your table pretty, but may also help curb calories. Research has shown that larger dinner plates mean more food served to make the plate look full… leading to more calories consumed when you sit down to eat. Vintage dinner plates are typically an inch or two smaller in diameter than the giant charger-sized plates available now. Filling small plates requires less food. (But don’t enforce the old-school clean plate club rules from earlier eras; eat what you like and stop when you’re full. And don’t get seconds just because so-and-so “made this for you”. You’ve enjoyed some, thank you, and you don’t need seconds.)

Shaved Fennel and Persimmon Salad

Shaved Fennel and Persimmon Salad Recipe opens in a new tab

Bring a Healthful Dish

And speaking of dishes, you can always offer to bring something you’ve prepared if you’re not hosting. That way, you get to enjoy some of the holiday cooking fun and you know there will be something healthful to enjoy. These Savory Cheese, Cranberry and Herb Mini Muffins opens in a new tab and this Shaved Fennel and Persimmon Salad opens in a new tab both double and travel well, and they are just as good the next day for a leftovers brunch.

Savor those Special Holiday Dishes

It’s okay to be choosy at the buffet table. Enjoy those special foods you only prepare or serve at the holidays: marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, your grandmother’s dressing, or that bakery-prepared pumpkin pie. Don’t feel obliged to waste calories on dishes you don’t look forward to all year.

A Smarter Pour

Choose your drinks wisely. Research has also shown that folks overpour their drink in short, wide, round glasses compared to tall, slim glasses. If you have the option, choose the taller, narrower glass, or be mindful that those large red wine glasses can hold up to 12 fluid ounces (which is more than the 5 or 10 fluid ounces of wine allotted to women and men, respectively)!

Hydration Helps

Make sure to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated keeps you healthy and may help you feel less hungry. Also, if you imbibe with your meal, be mindful of smart portion sizes and to drink plenty of water before and after any alcoholic drink. Sparkling water or juice spritzers (a little juice with a lot of sparkling water) can be fun alternatives to plain water.

Have Some Non-Food Fun

And, of course, enjoy the time with your friends and family. If you can, carve out time for an outside activity such as walking before you start cooking. My kids like to do a post-meal walk where we play “I spy” looking for holiday decorations. And there are plenty of non-food activities to keep you occupied: a game of touch football in the yard, playing a game inside (like charades) or just talking.

Lay Off the Leftovers

If you are hosting and expect to have plenty of leftovers, keep containers on hand so you can package them up to send home with your guests. This is a great strategy to remove those tempting foods, such as desserts or dips and chips, from your kitchen… and you won’t be eating pumpkin pie for breakfast all weekend!

Enjoy the special day — you can focus on and continue your exercise and healthful eating regimen tomorrow.

What is your favorite healthy dish to prepare for the holiday meal?

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