10 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating from Long Island Registered Dietitian: Enjoy Your Favorites and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Holiday Eating

Among the many pleasures of the holidays are the foods and festivities of the season. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, it’s not uncommon for my patients to ask how they can enjoy the holidays and still manage to maintain a healthful diet and weight. Most foods, even traditional holiday treats, can fit into a healthy plan. Mindful eating, moderation, and balance are the keys to healthy holiday eating. 

The secret is moderation and balance.

  • Be Realistic. Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays — this may be a self-defeating goal. Instead, strive to maintain your weight by balancing party eating with other meals.  
  • Take the edge off your hunger before a party. Feeling too hungry can sabotage even the strongest willpower, so eat your customary meals as well as a small, low-fat snack before you head out the door.  
  • Talk more than you eat. Take time to greet people you know – conversation is calorie free!  Get a beverage and settle into the festivities before eating. Try sparkling water with a lime twist rather than wine, champagne, or a mixed drink.  Remember, alcohol not only adds extra calories but also will reduce your self-control and may lead to an even greater food intake. Try having a glass of water in between each drink.
  • Make just one trip to the party buffet. And be selective! Choose only the foods you really want to eat. Often, a taste is all you will need to satisfy a craving or curiosity. 
  • Don’t socialize around the snack table. Move your socializing away from the food to eliminate nibbling.
  • Choose lower-calorie party foods. Raw vegetables with a small amount of dip — just enough to coat the end of the vegetable is a good choice. Try boiled shrimp or scallops with cocktail sauce or lemon or horseradish. Skip the fried food. If you want to nibble on cheese, take only one or two pieces. To help ensure there will be healthful treats, bring a dish to the party filled with raw vegetables with a yogurt or cottage cheese dip, or bring a platter of fresh fruit.
  • Enjoying a sit-down dinner party?  Make your first helping small. That way, if your host or hostess expects you to take seconds, the total amount will be about the same as a normal-size portion. If you’re bringing a dish, make a low-fat version of a family favorite. Once the food in on the table, you will have some healthy choices.
  • Snacks for entertaining can be healthy and please the palate.  Use reduced-fat crackers and your favorite hors d’oeuvres, serve hummus with pita wedges, make fruit kabobs, or arrange colorful vegetables on a platter with tangy low-fat yogurt dip.
  • Avoid the mundane. Back off standard fare that you could eat any other time of the year. Stick to holiday specialties.
  • Pick your favorites carefully. Many dishes come around only once a year, and you may not want to miss them. Rather than focusing on foods you shouldn’t eat, focus on the ones you want to eat. Holding yourself to a few traditional favorites will prevent you from overeating. Taking smaller portions and skipping the seconds will let you enjoy them “guilt free.” Be sure to eat slowly and savor every bite.


The most important thing about holiday eating is to forget the all-or-nothing mindset. Depriving yourself of special holiday foods or feeling guilty when you do enjoy them isn’t part of a healthy eating strategy, and it’s certainly not part of the holiday spirit!