Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Skipping lunch before a big holiday dinner. Forgetting to drink water all morning because you’re so busy rushing around. Diving into the buffet at a party—and then feeling guilty for days.

The holiday season is full of pitfalls for people who are trying to maintain healthy eating habits. “They are worried about how to stay on track,” says Valerie Pulley, RDN, Virginia Women’s Center’s registered dietitian. “They don’t want to give up on healthy behaviors they’ve worked so hard on. They’re worried about temptation and how to mindfully deal with it.”

Pulley can help. She offers some strategies to help women eat sensibly (and not stress too much) during the holiday season.

Tips for avoiding holiday overeating 

Pulley’s advice can be summed up in a word: Plan. It’s hard to make mindful eating decisions when you’re hungry, thirsty, rushed and running. During a busy Saturday spent shopping, you may suddenly realize you’re starving—“and there’s the new Cook Out! With milkshakes!”

Planning means always having a high-protein and/or high-fiber snack in your purse or car, so you can replenish your energy. Popcorn is a popular choice or trail mix with little or no added sugar. “I love the one I have in front of me right now,” Pulley says: a balsamic herb-flavored mix of crispy fava beans and peas from The Good Bean. Other ideas: mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas and whole grain crackers with natural nut butter.

Planning meals is also crucial when you’re traveling. Instead of pulling into the first fast-food spot you see, research your route, look up nutritional info and choose your lunch ahead of time, Pulley says. Also, bring a cooler packed with snacks like string or Babybel cheese, hummus or avocado cups, veggies, fruit and hard-boiled eggs.

And don’t forget to stay hydrated! When women come to see Pulley and she starts talking about the importance of water, they often say “Oh! You’re right – I haven’t had any water today.” She goes straight to the water cooler and brings them a cup.

Tips for healthy eating at holiday gatherings

Here’s a secret about holiday potlucks: People want you to bring a healthy dish.

Sure, they might say, “Oh, I hope you make your peppermint bark!” or “Your meatballs last year were amazing.” But in their hearts, they’re wishing for better options.

Pulley hears this in her office all the time. “People want to be able to go to parties, and they want to have healthy choices,” she says. “Especially at work parties.” That doesn’t mean you have to bring the standard plate of raw veggies — consider a Mediterranean mezze platter, smoked salmon, or creatively displayed fruit. “Take your favorite nutritious, healthy option that you love,” Pulley says.

And when other people’s decadent dishes tempt you? Pulley offers some useful tips:

  • Don’t go hungry. Eat a healthy snack beforehand.
  • Don’t stand right next to the food.
  • Begin by filling your plate with salad.
  • Be the last in line at a buffet, because the picked-over food won’t look as appealing.

We can help you stay on track

Women get discouraged when they fail to stick to their healthy routines. It’s all right, Pulley reassures them: “Don’t give up. OK, that happened, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up all the goals and healthy behaviors you’ve established. Forgive yourself and move on.”

Virginia Women’s Center now offers our patients a wellness program that incorporates weight management. Approaches include nutrition education, medication and psychological counseling, and all are medically supervised by a board-certified specialist in weight loss. Best of all, it can be covered by your insurance. An initial consult with Dr. Peter Wilbanks or Nurse practitioner Kelly Yeong is required to enter the program.  Let us help you be the best possible you.