Health Advice



Nutrition News: Holiday Strategies

Charlyn Fargo on

Holiday Strategies

'Tis the season for family, festivity and food -- lots of food. Temptations are everywhere, and parties and travel disrupt daily routines. What's more, it starts before Halloween and goes past the New Year.

How do you stick to your healthy eating goals when everyone around you seems to be splurging? Here are five tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that can help.

No. 1: Holiday-proof your plan. We may not be able to control what food we're served, and we're going to see other people eating tempting treats. Have a plan:

--If you have diabetes, eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served. That strategy also works if you're trying to lose weight.

--Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.

--If you want to have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.

--Don't skip meals to save up for a feast. You'll be more likely to overeat.

--If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.

--Choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan to cut calories and sugar by one-third.

--Keep moving. You may need to break physical activity into smaller chunks to fit it in. Taking a walk for 10 minutes, three times a day, adds up to 30 minutes of exercise.

No. 2. Outsmart the buffet. When faced with a spread of delicious holiday food, make healthy choices easier.

--Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.

--Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.

--Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you're full.

--Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food.

No. 3: Fit in favorites. No food is on the "I can't have it" list. Choose the dishes you really love and can't get any other time of year, like Aunt Shirley's Italian cream cake. Slow down and savor a small serving, and make sure to count it in your meal plan.

No. 4: Keep Moving. We all have a lot on our plates this time of year, and physical activity can get crowded out, even forgotten. However, being active is a secret holiday weapon. It can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Take a walk after a holiday meal.

No. 5: Get plenty of sleep. Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. When we are sleep deprived, we tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for seven to eight hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

Most of all, remember what the season is about: celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on the fun, it's easier to focus less on the food.

Q and A


Q: How can I prevent overeating during the holidays?

A: It helps to pay close attention to portion sizes. Serving yourself larger portions than normal encourages you to eat more, even if you would have been satisfied with a smaller amount. Eating too much at one time can cause unpleasant side effects such as discomfort, drowsiness, heartburn and temporary feelings of being too hot or dizzy. For Thanksgiving, a well-portioned plate would consist of 3 ounces of protein, such as turkey, 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes, 1/4 cup of gravy, 1/2 cup of stuffing, 1/2 cup green bean casserole and 1/4 cup cranberry sauce. For dessert, pick just one slice of pie.


Looking for a new side dish to serve with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and classic side dishes? Try this holiday vegetable salad. It's colorful, easy and can be made ahead. You can also add fresh broccoli florets if desired. It's from "Taste of Home Most Requested Recipes."


Servings: 6

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Coarsely ground black pepper

2 cups thinly sliced cauliflower

1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the first six ingredients (oil through pepper); shake well. In a salad bowl, combine the cauliflower, olives and peppers; drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Serves 6 (1/2 cup each).

Per serving: 120 calories; 1 gram protein; 4 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 2 grams sugars; 2 grams fiber; 644 milligrams sodium.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at




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