Five Tips for Healthy Eating During the Holidays | e-Inside | Kent State University

Five Tips for Healthy Eating During the Holidays

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, and it is usually a time when favorite family recipes encourage eating binges. As much as we all love the holidays, these all-day-eating-and-drinking holidays often result in overeating and weight gain.

To avoid this trap of gluttony, Kent State University nutrition experts Tanya Falcone, nutrition and dietetics instructor and coordinator of Kent State University’s Center of Nutrition Outreach, and Megan Cascaldo, campus dietitian, provide useful tips and recommendations for eating well during the holidays.

Average weight gain from Thanksgiving to Jan. 1 is six pounds, Falcone says. This weight gain sticks with us throughout the year and accumulates over time. Additionally, the average American consumes approximately 6,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone, Falcone says. On the recommended 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, that is equivalent to eating nine meals and nine snacks; that doesn’t include the leftovers that we eat the next day. 

Here are five tips to lighten your plate.

Stay on Schedule

It is easy to change your eating habits when you know there is an entire day of eating ahead. We can all relate. There is a huge meal later in the day, and we don’t want to be full when we get there. Maintaining a normal eating schedule is key, Falcone says.

“Have your regular meals,” Falcone says. “Don’t overdo it, but don’t underdo it either.”

It is important to wake up and eat breakfast to help avoid overeating later.

Be Selective

Although your grandma might make the best pumpkin pie in the world, you don’t have to eat three slices. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite treats, but you must be more selective of the portion sizes that you have on your plate.

“Instead of having the apple pie, pumpkin pie and a bowl of ice cream – and then have four more pieces – have one small piece of each,” Falcone says.

We all have that one food that we love. If you know that your aunt’s sweet potato casserole is good, but your grandma’s cornbread is the best, just have the cornbread, says Cascaldo.

“Remember, gravy is a topping and not an entrée itself,” says Cascaldo.

“Instead of shoveling food in our mouths just because it’s so good and we want so much more, we need to take our time to actually taste the food and enjoy it,” says Falcone.

Shrink the Plate

Portion control is another excellent strategy. If you want to eat something that is not as healthy as other options, cut the portion size. It is not necessary to put everything on your plate just because it’s available.

Did you know that a serving size of meat is only three ounces? That is about the size of a deck of cards, says Cascaldo.

“Instead of grabbing a huge piece of turkey, grab a little bit of everything you like as samples,” says Cascaldo.

Avoid Grazing

There is not a lot of time to get out and exercise during the holidays, especially for those who are cooking. Without even thinking about it, those preparing the food can have an entire meal before sitting down at the table.

“If you are going to taste what you are making, don’t taste it more than once or twice,” Falcone says. “Just by tasting, you can really rack up those calories.”

To save room for the big meals, you can have others help taste the food.

Get Creative

If it is not easy for you to turn down an extra plate or if you have more than one place to visit, sometimes the only answer is creativity. Whoever cooked the food does not want to waste what they took so long to make, but you must have a plan to avoid possibly offending them or overeating.

Here is one way to attack this problem. At the first place you are eating at, select your favorite items for that meal. For your next destination, you can inform them that you have already had a meal, but you would love to take some home.

In the end, healthy eating during the holidays is a mindset. To avoid the 6,000-calorie marathon of eating, you have to have a plan and stick to it.

The Center of Nutrition Outreach at Kent State University provides free nutrition counseling to all Kent State faculty, students and staff, as well as free or low-cost services to community members of Portage County.

For nutrition counseling or to make an appointment, email nutrition@kent.edu or call 330-672-2063.

Learn more about Kent State’s Center of Nutrition Outreach