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Healthy Holiday Nutrition Tips for the Whole Family

By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

healthy holiday nutrition tips

It doesn't matter what time of year it is or what you're celebrating, without some healthy holiday nutrition tips, it's easy to overindulge!

There's always a “reason” to overeat and overdrink (and a built-in excuse) because it's Christmas, New Year's Eve, the 4th of July, your birthday, your friend's birthday …

But you can still have fun and enjoy whatever it is you're celebrating without going overboard.

Try healthy holiday nutrition tips for you, your spouse, and your kids to fit in nutritious foods and spend quality time together as a family!

Consider adopting the healthy holiday nutrition tips below to get or stay healthy all year long!

Stay on track with a nutritious and delicious diet all year long, too, with these healthy eating hacks!

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Healthy Holiday Nutrition Tips for the Whole Family

Plan Out Your Meals

Plan out your menus all the time if you can, but especially during the holidays when it's easy to eat more than you'd like to.

Plan meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two or three snacks throughout the day.

Aim to fill about half of each plate with non-starchy vegetables and the other half with protein foods and fiber-rich starches.

Add healthy fats to each meal and consume three portions of dairy foods, plant milk, protein shakes, or other calcium-rich alternatives daily plus 1-2 cups of fruit!

Choose Healthy Snacks

Rather than grazing on holiday sweets, eggnog, or other high-calorie drinks, snack healthy!

Consider the following nutritious snacks for you and your family:

  • Low-sugar protein bars
  • Protein shakes or smoothies
  • Hummus with veggie sticks or pretzels
  • Apple, pear, or banana slices with nut butter
  • Nuts or seeds
  • Greek yogurt topped with nuts and cinnamon
  • Low-fat cottage cheese topped with sunflower seeds
  • Low-sodium, organic turkey jerky
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Fruit with walnuts
  • Avocado slices
  • Celery topped with peanut butter and raisins
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Olives
  • Coffee mixed with plant milk, protein powder, and pumpkin pie spice
  • Air-popped popcorn with nuts or seeds

Choose lower-calorie snacks or opt for smaller portion sizes if weight loss is your goal!

Struggling to find snacks that are healthy for your family? Try these 5 healthy snacks you can make at home!

 

Keep Nutritious Foods at Home

Having unhealthy foods at home makes it difficult to steer clear of them.

Avoid keeping sweets, chips, fried foods, processed meats, highly processed meals, or other junk foods in the house or limit them as much as possible.

Don't grocery shop while hungry and stick to buying only what's on your grocery shopping list.

Shop for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, protein foods, dairy foods, and heart-healthy fats.

Pick Protein, Fiber, and Healthy Fats

When planning healthy holiday meals, make sure to choose at least one fiber-rich food, high-protein food, and heart-healthy fat at each meal.

Protein Foods:

  • Chicken, turkey, and duck
  • Organic, lean red meat
  • Shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab, and other seafood
  • Eggs
  • Tofu or seitan
  • Greek yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Milk or plant milk
  • Low-sugar protein shakes or bars
  • Peas, beans, lentils, and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Fiber-Rich Foods:

  • Brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and other whole grains
  • Peas, beans, lentils, and other legumes
  • Fruits
  • Leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other non-starchy vegetables
  • Corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Nuts and seeds

Heart-Healthy Fats:

  • Olive oil and other plant-based oils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Hummus
  • Salmon, other fatty fish, and fish oil

Combining protein, fiber, and nutritious fats at each meal helps increase satiety without overindulging in calories.

Doing so keeps your energy levels high and reduces the risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Don't Eat While Distracted

A simple healthy holiday nutrition tip is to not eat while distracted.

Eating while watching television, talking with friends or family members, or being distracted in other ways makes it difficult to pay attention to your body's hunger cues.

Eat slowly, take breaks while consuming food, and be aware of signs that indicate you're full.

Try Nutritious Holiday Ingredient Swaps

When preparing food this holiday season, consider making a few healthy ingredient swaps.

Try swapping out the following common ingredients:

  • Replace bread crumbs with rolled oats or crushed bran cereal
  • Replace (all or half) butter, hard margarine, or shortening with olive oil, soft tub margarine, cooking spray, prune puree, or applesauce
  • Buy low-sodium or reduced-sodium canned meats, soups, or vegetables in place of high-sodium canned foods
  • Use low-fat half-and-half or evaporated skim milk in place of cream
  • Choose reduced-fat cheese in place of regular cheese
  • Pick low-fat cream cheese or pureed cottage cheese in place of regular cream cheese
  • Choose plain low-fat yogurt in place of full-fat sour cream
  • Replace one whole egg with two egg whites or 1/4 cup of egg substitute
  • Choose whole-wheat flour in place of regular flour in recipes
  • Use ground turkey breast, ground chicken breast, or very lean organic ground beef in place of higher-fat ground beef
  • Try reduced-fat milk in place of whole milk
  • Use whole-grain pasta in place of traditional pasta
  • Consider brown rice, wild rice, pearl barley, or bulgur in place of white rice
  • Try herbal seasonings (celery seed, onion flakes, garlic powder, finely chopped herbs, fresh garlic, celery, or onions) in place of salt

Making these and other healthy swaps is one of the best ways to reduce sodium, total calories, or saturated fat in your holiday menu!

Learn how to read nutrition information on another level!

 

Nix Sugar-Sweetened Drinks

While it's often tempting to add soda, lemonade, sweet tea, or other sugar-sweetened drinks to holiday menus, steer clear of these drinks whenever possible to reduce added sugar and your overall calorie intake this holiday season.

Instead, choose water, 100% fruit juice diluted with water, milk, plant milk, or low-sugar protein shakes!

Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks add unnecessary calories to your meal plan and increase your risk of weight gain, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

If you do choose alcohol, do so in moderation (one drink per day for women and two drinks or less daily for men).

Steer clear of sugary mixers like soda and lemonade.

Take Breaks While Eating

Take breaks while you eat to give your brain plenty of time to signal to your body that you feel full.

Take a short break after each course of food you eat before indulging in seconds.

Eat slowly and avoid eating while in a hurry.

Consider Healthy Holiday Desserts

While you may not want to nix holiday desserts entirely, there are several healthier holiday dessert recipes you can choose from.

Examples include crustless pumpkin pie, coconut ice cream, peanut butter protein balls, crustless (protein-rich) peanut butter chocolate pie, and many others.

Choose Smaller Plates

A simple, yet highly effective, healthy holiday nutrition tip is to choose smaller plate sizes to serve meals on.

Doing so makes it easier for you, your spouse, and your kids to choose smaller portions.

Wait a while before going back for seconds or avoid second helpings entirely.

Eat Non-Starchy Veggies and Protein Foods First

Non-starchy veggies and lean protein foods help fill you up without the extra calories.

Eat those foods before you consume higher-calorie options.

Examples of non-starchy vegetables include leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, onions, celery, and more.

Consider turkey, chicken, eggs, fish, seafood, or plant-based protein foods like tofu and setein.

Lastly, consume fiber-rich starches, fruits, and heart-healthy fats.

Save room for healthy desserts if you'd like, or pass on them entirely to help cut calories for weight loss.

How much protein do we need per day? Calculate YOUR daily protein intake!

 

Drink Water Before Meals

Drinking water before meals can trick your body into feeling full from fewer calories.

Drink about 2 cups of water before every meal and snack for better calorie control, reduced hunger, weight loss, or a lifetime of healthy weight maintenance!

Keep a Food Diary

Write down what you eat, even during the holiday season, to make you more aware of your dietary habits.

Doing so helps you consume fewer calories overall and achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Record the type and volume of food you eat in a journal daily and weigh yourself every day.

Compare your food intake from one day to the next, and make changes as needed to clean up your diet.

Track your total calorie intake and physical activity too if you'd like!

Watch Out for Hidden Sugars

A simple healthy holiday nutrition tip is to be aware of hidden sugar found in unsuspecting holiday meal ingredients.

Those to limit or avoid because of added sugar include:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Many granola bars
  • Syrups
  • Honey
  • Sugar-sweetened cereals
  • High-sugar protein bars or shakes
  • Flavored oatmeal
  • Some flavored yogurts
  • Many juice drink blends
  • Sodas
  • Baked goods
  • Ketchup
  • Coleslaw dressing
  • Other salad dressings
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Many jellies and jams

Check the nutrition facts label of some of your favorite holiday foods and ingredients.

Aim to keep grams of added sugar to 5 grams or less per serving whenever possible.

The American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day and women eat no more than 25 grams of added sugar daily.

Just one 12-ounce can of soda may contain 32 grams of added sugar!

Don't Overdo It With Sodium

Consuming too much sodium puts you at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

If you or your spouse is at risk of high blood pressure or you already have this condition, use caution with high-sodium ingredients.

Examples include processed meats, fried meats, pizza, soups, sauces, prepackaged entrees, salted nuts, chips, canned meats and vegetables, cheese, crackers, soy sauce, and salad dressings.

Reduced-sodium alternatives for many of these foods are often available.

Choose fresh meats over processed meats to maintain optimal health and lower your risk of cancer.

Pick baked chicken or turkey over deli meats, hot dogs, salami, ham, and bacon.

Choose unsalted nuts and canned foods, and flavor foods with herbs instead of salt whenever possible.

Consider Meal Replacements

One of many healthy holiday nutrition tips you might consider this season is to replace one or two of your meals with a protein shake or low-sugar protein bar.

Doing so is an excellent way to better control calories and avoid overindulging at mealtime.

Try a low-sugar protein shake for breakfast or lunch and eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal for dinner.

Consider drinking a small protein shake or bar before you head to bed each night (if you feel hungry) to help you sleep soundly.

High-protein meal replacements are excellent pre- and post-workout fuel.

They help you maintain lean body mass and allow your muscles to recover quickly.

Plan Active Family Adventures

To keep your body moving and help your entire family stay active, plan fun active adventures in addition to getting daily exercise.

Examples include biking, skating, skiing, playing basketball or hockey, sledding, snow showing, swimming, or jumping on a trampoline.

Do these activities in addition to routine daily workouts, which should last 30-60 minutes most days of the week.

Are you struggling to stay active? Try this family workout!

 

Don't Try to Finish Your Plate

Choose small portions on small plates, so you don't feel guilty about not finishing all of your food.

If you're full before you've eaten all the food on your plate, don't feel obligated to do so.

Simply save the rest for later, rather than trying to pack in extra calories.

Listen to your body's hunger and satiety cues and stop eating as soon as you feel full.

Don't forget to consume food slowly and take breaks from eating to avoid overindulging during meals.

Don't Skip Meals or Attend Parties Hungry

Skipping meals might seem like a good way to cut calories for weight loss, but doing so can increase your chance of overindulging during the next meal.

Arriving at holiday gatherings hungry might lead to binging on high-calorie hors d'oeuvres.

Have a light meal or snack before you attend holiday get-togethers and try not to skip meals.

Aim to eat three meals plus two to three snacks daily, or consume five to six smaller meals throughout the day!

Bring your own healthy side dish to pass around at holiday parties, and eat lower-calorie foods before high-calorie options.

Snack on veggies, salad, or lean proteins before you consume the main course and of course dessert!

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Consider a Healthy Eating Program for Women

The best way to stay on track with healthy holiday nutrition tips this season and all year long is to sign up for a healthy lifestyle program for women, such as the Fit Mother Project.

When you sign up you receive custom meal plans, nutritious recipes, fat-burning workouts, online health coaching support from medical experts, community social support, and much more!

In addition to adopting healthy holiday nutrition tips, try a free meal plan and workout today!

Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

Our Fit Mother 30X Program (FM30X) is the answer you’ve been looking for. Inside FM30X, you’ll receive:

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on healthy holiday nutrition tips.

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