21 BEST Tips for Eating Smart During the Holidays

Absolutely clever ways to enjoy the holidays without ruining your health goals

eating smart during the holidays

I love the holidays. But I also know I’m barely able to keep my solo promise to not expanding my waistline. Over the years, I’ve learned that eating smart during the holidays is the best way to go.

Imagine all the endless and irresistible holiday foods that you are going to eat in the upcoming holidays.

It is truly a challenge to stay disciplined and maintain your health and fitness goals during the holiday season.

Instead of worrying that you might overeat and adding more inches to your waistline, take charge of your diet, and create a plan to fight that urge. 

In this post, I’ll share tips and tricks for eating smart during the holidays so you can maintain and achieve your most important health goals. 

Let’s dive in right away!

1. Eat before going to the party

Holiday seasons are packed with gatherings and parties. There will be many foods to share for sure. 

Before leaving for a party, munch on a little snack rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, and unsaturated fats so you won’t arrive with a hungry tummy.

You can chomp on some apple slices with a smudge of peanut butter. Or a whole wheat sandwich with a few chunks of chicken with greens, cheese, and tomatoes.

2. Pause for 10 minutes

When you just ate your first round of food, sit back and wait 10 minutes. This is one of my favorite techniques for eating smart, especially during the holidays when food is abundant.

This will allow your brain to process and send signals to your stomach if it’s full. In the end, your body may conclude that you are already satisfied with eating. 

3. Don’t shop when you’re hungry

Research state that you are more likely to choose high-calorie and unhealthy foods because of temporary cravings. 

Fill your tummy when you can before you go to the grocery stores so that you won’t make poor shopping decisions.

This may give you the tendency to resist grabbing some sweet treats you don’t need or never planned to purchase. 

4. Lighten up your menu

A traditional holiday dinner typically has roast turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, dense, savory meat casseroles, buttery dinner rolls, and a line of various desserts.

If you are going to prepare food for the holiday celebration, try to make something different this time.

Do it the healthy way. There are many available delicious and healthy holiday recipes to try out over the internet. 

5. Skip the dinner plate

The size of your plate matters. Use a salad plate instead of the regular 10” dinner plate. The smaller the plate, the lower amounts of food you will fill on the plate. 

This is a trick that many diet experts would recommend to their clients as part of weight management.

6. Make room for fruits and vegetables

Vegetables are usually served as side dishes of meat entrees. Meat dishes are delicious, but at the same time, they are fatty. This time, try to do the opposite.

And the truth is veggies is the universal all-year-round best tip for eating smart – and even more important during the holidays.

Turn your veggies to the main dish! Vegetables are low on calories, and there are plenty of recipes you can find online that you might need to try. 

There’s more. 

Eat a cup of vegetable-based soup before eating your meal to help cut the calories and curb your cravings. 

When cooking casseroles, and making sandwiches, add some vegetables to give more volume to your recipe without increasing a lot of calories.

And if you see vegetable dishes and fruits at a party, don’t ignore them.

It won’t hurt if you eat more of these foods, and it can quickly occupy tummy space, making you full in no time. Slow down on veggie dishes that are drenched in cream or butter. 

Fruits can substitute as a great snack instead of munching on the sugary treats. 

7. Limit your alcohol consumption

You sure want to party hard. There’s no problem with that. Make sure that your alcohol consumption is under control. 

Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. That is even higher than carbohydrate and protein foods, which only give 4 calories per gram.  

Drinking alcohol with an empty stomach will increase your appetite and lessen your ability to control what you eat.

Instead, you might start with drinking low-calorie, non-alcoholic drinks like diet soda or sparkling water to quench your thirst. 

8. Don’t starve yourself

Starving yourself to conserve calories will do worse than good. Instead, you’ll end-up overeating in the next meal you take. Don’t skip meals, and don’t go hungry. 

Take a light, healthy snack like a piece of fresh fruit or a handful of nuts instead if your next meal is hours away to curb your hunger. 

9. Shop the smarter way

One way to eat healthily is to consider the products you purchase from the grocery stores. Try to reflect on those products that you used to buy if they are considered nutritious and healthy. 

Plan your shopping and make a list of what you need to buy. Try to focus on your shopping list and skip those food items that are unnecessary.

Take time to read the nutrition labels and choose which item is healthier. You may need to check on local markets where more whole and nutritious foods are found.

10. Eat your breakfast

Eating breakfast is necessary, and it should be part of your daily routine because studies have proved that breakfast it the most important meal of the day. 

“I have no time for breakfast,”

“I need to lose weight,”

“I’m not hungry in the morning,”

“It’s a holiday! I rather laze around in bed than eat breakfast”

What do all the above have in common? They are excuses for people to skip breakfast.

You should put an end to this. Establish a habit to always start the day with breakfast before anything else.

If you think skipping breakfast will minimize your calorie consumption, that’s not how it works. Instead, research revealed that you are bound to eat more calories and gain weight if you skip breakfast. 

Eating breakfast brings more benefits to your health.

It will suppress your appetite, stimulate your metabolism, keep you stuffed until your next meal, and maintain your blood sugar at normal levels. 

Make sure your breakfast meals consist of healthy and nutrient-dense foods as well. If you’re considering eating smart, having breakfast during the holidays can help.

11. Increase your physical activity

butt exercises to get toned and sculpted

Being physically active is vital in keeping yourself healthy, especially during the relaxing holiday season.

It would be a waste if you’ll stop exercising. You don’t want to waste all those efforts of sweating just to get where you are now.

Just continue your routine and think that being physically active will burn the extra calories you have consumed during the holidays.

If you’re waiting for a time to start exercising, then it’s now. At least, you have started something productive before the holiday break is over.

There are many kinds of exercises you try. Just choose something that will not bore you, something that you will surely enjoy and look forward to day by day. 

12. Observe portion control

The amount of food you eat is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy weight. With the holiday season, it is quite a challenge to resist that favorite dish you always look forward to having. 

Eating smart during the holidays will mean doing your your self a favor: learn to estimate serving sizes. 

You can start with this rule of thumb on how much you will eat: a deck of cards or a medium fist-size portion for your meats, 

As another example, if you and your friend are going to meet at a restaurant, you might want to share half of the meal with him/her. Sharing is caring!

Overeating is sometimes easier than limiting yourself from eating more. Some foods are right for you and think it’s okay to eat more.

Take note of portion sizes and take control of the amount of any kind of food you eat. Too much of anything good can be as bad as eating unhealthy foods.

13. Eat only when you are hungry

Your body can self regulate. It will prompt you if you are thirsty or hungry. Listen to your body and know when to refuel. 

14. Avoid high caloric beverages

Smoothies, soft drinks, sweetened teas, fruit juices, and other sugary beverages have high calories and large amounts of added sugar.

Although delicious and refreshing, you would not want to increase your risk for diabetes mellitus and heart diseases. 

You can shift to other low-calorie beverages such as a cup of brewed coffee, herbal tea, and natural and real fruit juices that you don’t have to add a lot of sugar. 

15. Choose healthy desserts

You might already be aware that those sugary desserts are the culprit of expanding anyone’s waistline.  

It’s best to avoid cakes, sweetbreads, cream-filled pastries, pies, and more!

This does not mean you have to avoid any kind of dessert, though. You can still satiate your sweet tooth with these kinds of healthy desserts:

  • Grilled fruit
  • Berries
  • Biscotti
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chia pudding
  • Fruit-based desserts
  • Heart-healthy cookies
  • Healthy fresh fruit smoothies

16. Hydrate with water

drinking water for weight loss

Sometimes, the brain sends the wrong signals to our senses. There are times it thinks we are hungry, but we’re just actually thirsty.

This sometimes leads us to eat instead, when our body only needs to be hydrated. 

Rule of thumb: Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day or more, especially if you are physically active.

Take with you a bottle of water whenever you go. Maybe drinking water is just what you need instead of eating.

17. Take charge of your diet 

You would not want your holiday break to be “torturous” because you need to deprive yourself of eating all those delicious foods and treats that will be prepared in many gatherings.

Mainly, you don’t want to miss that dessert tray loaded with calories, sugar, and fat will surely be the most irresistible treat for this season. 

You need to plan and be decisive and be mindful of what you eat. 

Enjoy every bite and take a little pause in between. Just simply savor the flavor of the food.

As for those dessert treats, choose one that attracts you the most. Savor and enjoy every bite. Doing this will help you not over-consume other sugary treats, and you can leave the party with no guilt.

18. Socialize

Food is the highlight of any holiday celebration. Of course, you celebrate it with your family and friends. 

Try to stay away from the buffet table and engage in more quality time with your loved ones.

Talk and relive those happy memories you’ve been through over the years. Share the laughter and simply enjoy it.

You might be surprised that you have already forgotten about eating another round (not getting another eating round could be the smart move during the holidays).

19. Get enough sleep

sleep better at night rules

For some people, the holidays are the time to party all night, or you do other things that will keep you up throughout the night.

Sometimes, we continuously don’t get enough sleep because of these activities. Studies revealed that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.

This may lead you by unconsciously consume more food because your body has to cope with its energy needs. The extra calories you took will be stored in your adipose tissues.

Hence, it is essential to get enough sleep. An eight hours to hours of sleep is sufficient for your body to function correctly throughout the day and maintain a healthy weight. 

20. Do activities that don’t involve food

You can take a break from doing more rounds of eating. Instead, go outside and spend time with your family by engaging in games that do not involve eating, like board games and other indoor activities.

Or, you can go out for a walk for a few moments — anything to keep you away from food for a while.

21. Make eating sound and simple

It is important to note that your meals are healthy. Whether you’re at a party or just by yourself during the holidays.

Make sure your plate is packed with colorful and nutrient-dense foods. That’s the ultimate smart eating there can be, whether it’s during the holidays or not.

Fill half of your plate with 1 to 2 servings each of vegetables and fruits.

The other half of your plate will contain an ounce of lean meats or other protein-rich foods and one serving of starchy grains. Don’t forget a glass of water, milk, or fresh juice on the side.

(Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian)

Dorothy is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian and a candidate for a master's degree in Public Health (MPH) major in Public Health Nutrition. She has a passion for teaching to her university students about food, nutrition, and health. Dorothy is a coffee lover and she enjoys traveling, writing, cycling, running, cooking, baking, and cooking.