A Healthy Food Guide to Surviving the Holidays

A Healthy Food Guide to Surviving the Holidays

The holiday season is fast approaching and this is a stressful time of year for many.    Not only because of the regular stressors of buying gifts, decorating the house, and hosting holiday parties. But also, the stress of trying to stay on track with the healthy lifestyle changes you have worked so hard to put in place all year.  

Did you know that the average North American gains between 1-5lbs during the holiday season which runs between November and January? This added over the years will equal up to a significant amount of weight gain.  Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how hard and slow the weight comes off versus the weight coming on.  

This time of year should be about enjoying time with our friends and family and celebrating happy times, not being worried about every bite we put in our mouths.


Here are some tips to help you get through this time.

Tip #1:  Plan ahead

  • Knowing that you will be at a party or event on a specific date or time, leading up to this date, try to do your best to stick to your plan; eating well, staying hydrated, stress relief, and exercising.  
  • If you know the type of food that will be served make a plan ahead of time of what you will be eating.  If it is a restaurant you are going to take a look at the menu ahead of time and plan your order.  By trying to make these choices ahead of time, you may be more likely to make a more sensible choice.  

Planning before the day of the function will allow you to be able to enjoy your meal & your holiday event. This way the next day you will go back to your routine without feeling guilty.  

Tip #2:  Bring something

  • Potlucks and home get-togethers are a great way to bring a dish that you can also enjoy.  Most guests usually bring some kind of dessert.  Why not bring your favourite side dish, vegetable, salad, or even a new or different food that you can introduce to your loved ones.  This would be great when you are trying to follow a new diet that has you restricting certain foods, for example gluten.  So why not introduce your loved ones to a gluten-free quinoa salad or a gluten-free dessert?  By doing this you are increasing your selection of foods, possibly introducing others to something new, and helping take the stress off the host who may not know what to serve you.  This could also end up being a new favourite dish for your friends!

  Tip #3:  Watch out for the drinks

  • It's not just the food we should be careful with but also our beverages.  Whether it is an alcoholic beverage or some kind of warm drink, for example a hot chocolate or latte, these all have one thing in common and that is empty calories.  So when enjoying these beverages try and limit them or pace yourself to not overindulge in them.  Alternate between the alcohol and some water to help decrease the quantity.  Try and set your goal to 1 alcoholic drink per event and take your time and enjoy it. 

Tip #4:  Navigating the buffet

Buffets or self-serve meals can sometimes be overwhelming with so many choices. My tips on navigating a buffet will help you get through it.

  • Start by looking first.  Walk through the whole buffet or table to see what is available and what items interest you the most.  I usually find that in these settings we start at the front and start loading up our plate, then we find our plate is full of things we may or may not want to eat.
  • Start with the vegetables or the salad.  When a plate is empty the first items we put on tend to take up the most room, so why not make that the items that we should be eating more of and probably have the least calories. Then move on to the protein and then the carbs if you have room. 
  • Try and mimic what your normal plate at home looks like.  If you usually have it loaded with vegetables and protein, do the same here.  You don't normally go back for seconds at home so why would you go back for seconds when your are out. 
  • You don’t need to eat a little of everything.  Be picky, pick the foods that you really want to eat.  Maybe it is something you haven’t eaten in a long time or just an item that you know is your favourite.
  • If you want to go back for seconds.  First wait 10-15 min to see if you are still actually hungry and want to go back.  Then if you decide you are still hungry  again start with the vegetables or salad and if there is an item you feel you need more of have a bit more of that one thing.

Tip #5:  Don’t skip on your physical activity for that day

  • If you are scheduled for a party that night don’t skip on the physical activity that day.  Knowing you are going out and most likely eating differently than you usually do, putting in that extra activity will make us either feel like we don’t want to overdo it later on or help to burn off some potential extra calories that we may be eating that night.  The physical activity may even help to increase our energy to make it through the night!


Remember, this is supposed to be a happy time full of celebrations not full of fear and stress.  Try your best and be proud of the progress you have made and the choices you have made during this time.  After each celebration just get back on track and keep going.  Don’t feel guilty and give up.  Don’t say you will start fresh in the new year.  This is what causes the weight gain over the holidays.  Giving up completely, feeling guilty and waiting until the new year is what will lead to increased weight gain.

By: Sofia Kalamaris, RD, CDE

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