Healthy Eating During the Holidays

The holidays are often a busy time.  Try the following tips to help you stay on track.

Tip 1: Eat regularly.

  • Skipping meals can lead to overeating.
  • Get a burst of energy in the morning by eating breakfast.
  • Keep your energy levels up and curb your hunger by every 4-6 hours.

Tip 2: Load up with colour.

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. This is a great way to balance out calorie-rich foods.
  • Choose fresh cut veggies, leafy green salads, and fruit.
  • Hosting a meal? Start off with a steaming bowl of your favourite vegetable soup.

Tip 3: Enjoy your favourite holiday foods.

  • Enjoy special holiday foods like shortbread cookies, latkes, turkey with stuffing, and mashed potatoes, but keep your portions in check by using smaller plates.
  • Pass on high-calories foods that you can get any time, like chips and chocolate.

Tip 4: Watch your drinks.

  • Calories from drinks can add up quickly. This is true for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Drink slowly. If you choose to drink alcohol, alternate alcoholic drinks with lower calorie options such as sparkling water with lime, low-sodium vegetable juice, or cranberry juice with club soda.
  • Love eggnog? Enjoy a small cup and think of it as dessert.

Tip 5: Be active.

  • Balance out those extra holiday calories with some activity.
  • Adults should aim for the recommended 2 ½ hours of weekly physical activity.
  • Start slowly and build up. Every ten-minute burst of activity counts. You'll feel great!
  • Going to the mall? Add a few extra laps of walking around.

Eating Out at Restaurants and Social Gatherings


  • Go for smaller portions when eating out at restaurants. Most places serve more food than you need and it's usually high in fat and sodium.
  • Check out these tips to make healthier choices when eating out and manage the amount of fat and sodium in your meal.

Buffets and cocktail parties

  • Eat regular meals and snacks before going to a party. That way, you won't arrive starving and you'll be less tempted to overindulge.
  • Scope out your options and make one trip to the buffet.  Instead of eating a bit of everything, choose the foods you really want, and keep the portions small. Add some colour to your choices too.
  • Focus on socializing. Steer the conversation away from the food table so you're less likely to nibble mindlessly.
  • Set a limit. Cocktail parties with finger foods can make it hard to keep track of what you're eating. Pick a maximum number of appetizers and skip the rest. Healthier choices include: cocktail shrimp, satays, fresh spring rolls, sushi, and vegetables and fruit with low-fat dip.

Big holiday meal

  • Offer to bring a dish. Take a vegetable or fruit platter, bean dip with whole grain pita wedges, or tomato and black bean salsa with baked tortilla chips.
  • Start with small portions and eat slowly. Your brain needs 20 minutes to realize you're full. Take a break before reaching for seconds.
  • Get moving. Go for a walk after your meal or lace up for a fun skate. Play in the snow--throw a few snowballs around, build a fort, or go tobogganing.

For Families

The holiday season is a busy time for families: school concerts, shopping for gifts, and getting together with friends and family. A little planning will go a long way in helping you and your family make time for healthy eating.

  • Families who eat together are more likely to eat healthier foods. The holidays are no exception.
  • Plan your meals so things go smoothly on hectic days filled with holiday festivities.
  • Cook meals ahead of time and keep them in your freezer. This will free up time to enjoy with friends and family. Make a list of fast and easy meal ideas that you and your family like to eat.
  • Have healthy snacks on hand, including pre-cut vegetables and fruit, so it's easy to grab while you're rushing from one holiday gathering to the next.
  • Create healthy holiday food traditions. This is a great time for bonding, and the food skills your children learn will stay with them for life. Pick a new vegetable recipe to cook together or make healthy holiday food gifts such as jars filled with dried fruit and nuts, or lentil soup mix.
  • Start off dessert with fruit. Enjoy juicy clementines, pears, or other fruit. This will leave room for a few bites of your favourite dessert.


Material from this blog post are derived from Health Canada and Diabetes Canada:

Mosadi Brown, MEd, RD, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Educator, and Leader in private practice.  Contact - and