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10 Strategies for Healthy Holiday Eating

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Healthy and holidays don’t often go together. The season starts off with a bountiful Thanksgiving feast that often entails stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie, and other not-so-healthy traditional foods. From there, December involves various social functions where nutrition and healthy food is decidedly not on the menu or buffet table. By Christmas or Hanukkah dinner, you may feel stuffed and your jeans may fit a little tighter; you firmly resolve that on New Year’s Day you’ll finally bring in those healthy snacks and recipes to get lean and healthy.

Make Healthy Habits A Part of Your Lifestyle

But why start then? The good news is that you can gain control right now with healthy eating and feeling your best. You don’t need to settle for weight gain and all the health-hijacking downfalls that the holidays often create.

Making healthy eating and living habits a regular part of your holidays might feel like going against the tide. After all, everyone else is downing second or third helpings of stuffing with gravy while you’re being mindful and attempting to dutifully abstain or at least maintain portion control. Defining your why can provide the foundation to make healthier choices even if your family or friends choose to indulge.

Write down your reason (or reasons), and keep it nearby. Those might include feeling fabulous in your dress on New Year’s Eve, having more energy to keep up with your kids, reducing your risk for disease, or improving your lipid profile. Or perhaps all of the above! You get to decide what happy and healthy means to you.  

When you’re tempted to have that second bite of peppermint fudge (or whatever your holiday sugary weakness might be), you’ll have your reason firmly in place to resist what otherwise might feel like a challenge.

10 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

Once you have that why, establish some simple, effective ground rules that create a solid foundation to carry you through the holidays and beyond. Healthy holiday eating won’t feel difficult when you incorporate and commit to these 10 principles.

1. Plan healthy foods in advance.

People who plan their meals in advance eat healthier and are less likely to be overweight. Holiday dinners parties and end-of-year work demands can lead to pushing healthy eating to the back burner. As a result, you’re more likely to grab an unhealthy meal at the mall or skip meals and subsequently snack on leftover gingerbread cookies. To avoid those dietary catastrophes, plan in advance. Make a list for grocery shopping, prep ingredients and even meals for the week ahead, and develop strategies for choosing healthy options at your family’s holiday dinner.

2. Start your day healthy.

The habits you create at breakfast can sustain or weaken healthy choices throughout the day. A few bites of your coworker’s homemade holiday treats on a near-empty stomach at 10 a.m. can send your blood sugar on a roller coaster that crashes around noon when you suddenly have a hankering for lasagna and garlic bread. Don’t fall into that trap! Start the day right with a nutrient-dense nourishing breakfast that keeps you full and focused throughout the morning. Try protein-rich Omelet Muffins made with free-range eggs and mixed vegetables for an easy grab-and-go breakfast during the busiest of mornings.

3. Be accountable.

Making healthier choices during the holidays becomes easier when you have a health-minded friend or colleague. You might also incorporate an online community or find a support group that fosters healthy habits. If you can’t find one, consider starting one on that incorporates our Core or Advanced Plans. At the very least, ask your coworkers or significant other to help you maintain healthy habits during the holidays and be careful of anyone who might sabotage your efforts. Make a pact with yourself and others that you’ll choose healthy foods, exercise regularly, and support each other during stressful moments.

4. Keep healthy snacks nearby.

Holiday treats can sabotage even the most vigilant eater. Leaving them sitting around only encourages mindless, frequent snacking. Instead of keeping a bowl of holiday-colored Hershey’s Kisses on the coffee table, try healthier snacks that stabilize blood sugar so you don’t have that miserable crash an hour later. College students in one study were more likely to choose healthier foods (in this case, apple slices) when those snacks were in close proximity and in opaque bowls. Healthy snacks like our nutrient-dense, easy Trail Mix recipe provide the crunch and sweetness of decadent snacks without the sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

5. Incorporate more healthy recipes into your holiday parties.

Even when your favorite aunt insists that you make her cornbread stuffing for Christmas dinner, hosting your own events or having a family potluck means you can offer plenty of healthy dishes. Even if you attend someone else’s party, offer to bring your own dish. Instead, try our Gluten-Free Nut Stuffing or our Easy Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms recipe — sure to be a rave-worthy appetizer at any holiday social gathering.

6. Don’t make it about “healthy food.”

Nobody wants to be “that person” who makes a big deal about everything being healthy. That doesn’t mean you need to abandon dietary discretion and eat whatever you want to avoid looking like a health nut. Instead, upgrade your food selection without making a big deal about it. Offer our Almond Cookies and Chocolate Macaroons at your holiday party and guests will never know these decadent, sweet desserts are actually healthy.

7. Create your own dinner party menu.

Whether you’re hosting a holiday family dinner or having your coworkers over to celebrate, you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to create a festive, satisfying holiday meal. Start with our Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing recipe, which can easily double as a quick meal when you throw some organic turkey or wild-caught salmon on top. Our Fancy Salmon, rich in crave-busting protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, makes a satisfying entree atop sauteed vegetables.

8. Remember that nutrition requires more than healthy food.

Abandoning healthy lifestyle choices becomes easy during the hectic, overscheduled holiday season. Yet even the healthiest eating plan can become derailed without sufficient sleep, stress management, exercise, immune support, and getting sufficient nutrients. Pure Tranquility can calm frazzled nerves and help you fall (and stay) asleep. Optimal health is the best gift you can give yourself (and your loved ones!) during the holidays and beyond.

9. Try these kid-friendly ideas for Christmas dinner (or any time).

Don’t let your kids or significant other fall into a candy coma on Christmas morning. Start the day with a healthy breakfast (our gluten-free Healthy Blueberry Muffins or Almond Meal Pancakes recipe will be a huge hit) and maintain that healthy eating throughout the day. For super-picky kids who roll their eyes at the sliced turkey, our Healthy Boneless Buffalo Tenders or pizza made with Cauliflower Crust will satisfy the most finicky eater.

10. Don’t forget these easy holiday desserts.

Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner wouldn’t feel complete without dessert. Fortunately, you can indulge in holiday treats without guilt or falling into a sugar coma. Our Pumpkin Pie recipe will pass the test of even the most dedicated dessert fan. If you want something slightly different with a tapioca-like texture, try our Chia Seed Pudding. Who needs sugar-loaded desserts when you have these satisfying options?

The holidays mean you’ll occasionally indulge, and you might encounter a few occasions where you have little control over what you eat. For the most part, though, you have plenty of opportunities to make healthy eating choices during the holidays — even at a cookie Christmas party or your coworker’s eggnog-sampling gathering.

Incorporating healthy recipes into your festivities means you don’t have to feel deprived or experience weight gain during the holidays. And (bonus!) come New Year’s Day, you won’t be cursing your skinny jeans.

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