Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • November 2016
Written by 

Surviving the holidays, one bite at a time

The holidays challenge even the most diligent health enthusiasts. Tempting family favorites, travel schedules that take you away from your fitness pattern, stress and lack of sleep all combine to create the perfect storm of distraction from your healthy routine. Below are basic nutrition strategies to help you stay on track this holiday season, one bite at a time.

Keep portions in proportion. Holiday eating is a perfect case of portion distortion. Let’s face it, the old family favorites taste good! Start by fixing a little less of each; in turn, everyone sharing the meal will take a little less, helping to keep portions in proportion. Remember that the first half cup will taste just like the last half cup, so take the time to…

Savor every bite. If you truly savor each bite you take, a smaller portion of your favorite dish can satisfy you instead of the double, if not triple portions we may often partake in. Take time to enjoy the flavors and the conversation and…

Avoid mindless munching. Often when we sit and talk with friends and family, we lose sight of mindless munching, even if we’re already full. An easy way to avoid these extra calories is simply remove your plate. Also, avoid sitting right next to the snack bowls, or if you do feel the need to munch…

Consider nutrient-dense, not energy dense goods. Seasonal nutrient-dense favorites include: fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, grapes, squash and pumpkin, and many hardy greens. Visit the remaining farmers market websites for local seasonal foods fresh in flavor, and rich in nutrients. Lean protein foods can also help you fill up with fewer calories (for example, skinless white meat turkey or chicken versus dark meat with skin). Remember, some family favorite recipes can take nutrient-dense foods and make them energy dense with high fat, high calorie ingredients, so…

Revamp your family favorites. This year, make a run to the grocery store or bring healthy family favorites with you. This way, healthy options are available when you want or need them. Revamp old-time favorites with healthy, flavorful alternatives by modifying ingredients and preparation techniques:

  • Use spices and herbs instead of salt, butter and other high calorie additives.
  • Try sweet potatoes versus white potatoes and enjoy their natural sweet flavor.
  • Prepare a crustless pumpkin pie and top with light yogurt versus full fat whip cream for a delicious treat.
  • Try baked apples or pears versus apple pie. Top with yogurt or a Cool Whip with a sprinkle of fresh ground nutmeg.
  • Prepare light dips for veggies with yogurt or nonfat sour cream. Add fresh or dried herbs like dill or cilantro.
  • Roast or bake instead of frying.
  • Utilize healthy cooking websites for ideas. (Cooking Light:, Whole Foods:

By revamping family recipes, toss out the previous notion that if you just skip breakfast or you just skip lunch, you will make more room for dinner. Quite the contrary...

Avoid skipping meals. Jumpstart your holiday with a healthy breakfast and eat regular small meals throughout the day. Skipping meals sets you up for overconsuming at the holiday meal. Trust your body’s sense of fullness.

Despite all our best intentions on holidays, there will always be temptations, so know that it is OK to…

Say no. It’s OK. Oftentimes, family encourages us or tempts us with seconds, thirds, snacks, desserts, drinks and more. Be confident in your ability to make healthy choices, trust your body and be comfortable saying no. Instead, grab your water glass or…

Integrate exercise. Take a walk with a family member to catch up. Walk and talk at a local mall as you window shop the holiday sales. Play games outside, toss a football with aunts, uncles and cousins. Take the kids to a local farm to pick apples or pumpkins. Aside from all the above, remember to…

Make the holidays a time of laughter, cheer and joy! We have to remember to enjoy the time with friends and family. If you make healthy choices throughout your daily lives, trust that you will be able to continue to make healthy lifestyle choices during the holidays. Enjoy!

Kate Harrell

Kate Harrell, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian and fitness specialist with the Neenah Menasha YMCA. Kate also teaches in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Contact Kate at [email protected]


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