Healthy eating during the holidays

During this period many of us eat more and gain weight. Is there an antidote to that? Here we’ll analyse the three phases of healthy eating, and draw to a close with the role of exercise.

The three phases for healthier eating

The first is buying food, the second is cooking and the third consuming it. Buying and cooking only applies to homemade food while the third phase applies to all meals.

Santa Claus

Phase 1

While buying food notice the differences between products of various food companies. Those differences are not just about calories. Which has less sodium (salt), saturated and trans fat, sugar? In addition make sure your meals include fruits, vegetables, legume, whole grain foods, fish or chicken, low or zero fat dairy and not just red meat and sweets.

Phase 2

The rationale when cooking is on the one hand to find substitutes for ingredients that are high in calories and/or fat and on the other hand to use healthier cooking techniques. For instance:

  • Instead of butter use olive oil and soft margarine.
  • Favor whole grain bread, flour and pasta instead of refined.
  • Make cream using skimmed or low fat milk.
  • Avoid frying.
  • Cut potatoes you’re about to roast in large pieces because that way they absorb less fat.
  • Empty all turkey drippings to a jar, and wait for the fat to concentrate on the surface. Then remove it with a spoon before making gravy.

Phase 3

Phase 3 includes both every day and festive meals. It is customary during the holidays to attend parties on Christmas day or on New Year’s Eve, at home, work or a friendly house. Below we list certain tips to help you eat and drink more wisely.

  • In all instances described above food is available in large quantities. And it is common knowledge that the larger the quantity the more we tend to eat. Furthermore wide variety also pushes us to consume more. Keep those two in mind to avoid overindulging.
  • Before starting to eat evaluate your options. For example spot the foods which are fried, have butter, cheese or cream. Those will normally have the more calories, even in small portions. If you cannot completely avoid them, at least start with the healthier options you have. Be it vegetables, fruits, small pieces of bread or whole grain crackers, boiled and roasted plates. That way you fill your stomach and therefore eat less of the fattier ones afterwards, while also intaking more nutrients.
  • Remember that the portions served are usually larger than “normal” portions. An average portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards for example. You don’t have to empty your plate.
  • When having chicken or turkey avoid eating the skin.
  • Gravy is full of fat, calories and sodium. A table spoon is enough.
  • Don’t eat more than a ¼ of a mug of stuffing, especially when it contains meat, bread or butter. Favour stuffing made of walnuts, chestnuts and dried fruit.
  • What could also help is for you to eat something healthy before the party (if the latter doesn’t take place at your home). By being fuller you’ll be less vulnerable to temptation and overconsumption.
  • During this period sweets are offered in abundance and since it’s impossible to not eat at all, at least limit quantity. Now how does one do that? By finding someone to share the sweet he or she is offered.
  • Don’t forget that alcoholic beverages have calories like all foods. Use if possible smaller cups. Limit quantity by drinking water in between.


Exercise should be a part of your everyday routine throughout the year. But even if it’s not, you can, by exercising lightly, even during this time, offset, to a degree, the holidays’ increased calorie intake and hold back potential weight gains. Best case scenario you make a habit of it.

If you’re unaccustomed to exercise start with a few minutes of brisk walking, which you then try and increase a bit each day. If you feel like you can endure more then do it for 30 minutes. This time is not chosen by chance. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise for 5 days every week help reduce the risk of diseases like cardiovasculars, strokes and type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile walking will also help you feel better psychologically.

School are closed during the holidays, hence you can exercise with your children. Apart from burning calories you help kids get used to exercise and love it. If all goes well they could integrate physical exercise in their lives permanently and therefore build a base of healthy body weight for life.

There are various forms of exercise and you may choose the one which suits you better. Remember that some house chores are considered exercise too.

Happy holidays and a happy New Year.

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