Dietitians Share Their Healthiest Holiday Tips

By Alexandra Caspero on November 20, 2023

The holiday season is full of indulgent foods and hectic schedules that can derail healthy habits. From office parties to family gatherings, it’s easy to overeat and gain weight during this time of year.

However, with some planning and smart choices, you can still enjoy the holidays while feeling your best. To help you survive the season while staying on track with your health goals, registered dietitians share their top tips for your healthiest and happiest holiday season yet.

Eat Regular Meals

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Don’t skip meals to “save up” for a gathering. Have balanced meals throughout the day to prevent overeating later on.

Maya Oueichek, MBA, RDN, Healthy Holidays Guide.

Avoid Restriction

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Instead of trying to completely avoid and restrict on treats try to enjoy them in balance and fit the right portion sizes into your day.

Maya Oueichek, MBA, RDN, Healthy Holidays Guide.

Have Simple and Realistic Plans

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The holiday season is full of fun, celebration, and stress. The stress and chaos, coupled with lots of choices, can lead to less healthy decision-making. Having a simple and realistic plan can help you reduce stress and make healthier decisions. Doing something as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day for yourself will help you have a healthier holiday season.

Grace Scarborough, RDN, CD

Enjoy a smaller portion of sweet potato casserole

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Let’s face it. Sweet potato “casserole” is really dessert. Opt for a lighter dish that’s still delicious. Boiled, mashed sweet potatoes can be paired with orange juice, grated ginger, and a dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Top with roasted pecans for extra flavor and texture.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner, Sound Bites Nutrition.

Plan Your Holidays

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Plan out which days to thoroughly enjoy the holiday season. Pick three or four days that you want to enjoy such as Thanksgiving or Christmas or maybe a work party and enjoy those days without counting calories or worrying how they’re gonna affect your waistline.

Amy Beney MS RD CDCES, My Nutrition Insight.

Have a Yogurt or Fruit Before Going to a Party

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Never go to a party or a dinner hungry. Have a small snack such as yogurt or fruit or something with protein or high-fiber carbs. It will help you make better choices at a restaurant or a party when you don’t walk in the door or look at a menu starving.

Amy Beney MS RD CDCES, My Nutrition Insight.

Drink Plenty of Water

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Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Being properly hydrated can help manage blood sugars, mood, and overall feelings of wellness. We tend to make different and perhaps better food and drink choices when we are properly hydrated than when we are thirsty.

Amy Beney MS RD CDCES, My Nutrition Insight.

It’s OK to Say No to Parties

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It’s OK to say no to parties or events that you know will not be good for your physical or mental health. If there is a social gathering that stresses you out it’s OK to decline the invitation. If there’s a party or an event that may not be in line with your health and wellness choices. It’s OK to skip out on the party or event.

Amy Beney MS RD CDCES, My Nutrition Insight

Prioritize Sleep

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Prioritize sleep. Sleep is so important and oftentimes during the holidays. We tend to get less sleep and focus on getting ready for the holidays. Good quality and quantity of sleep are important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Amy Beney MS RD CDCES, My Nutrition Insight.

Avoid Skipping Meals

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My best advice for a healthier holiday season is to avoid skipping meals before holiday meals. Often, people will skip lunch before a holiday dinner to “save up calories to eat more later.” Instead, I encourage my clients to honor their hunger and eat regular consistent meals prior to holiday get-togethers to avoid binge eating or stomach discomfort. When you are comfortably hungry you are able to slow down and enjoy the taste of your food and your company much more than if you are painfully hungry and ready to eat anything in sight.

Katie Schimmelpfenning, RD, Founder of Eat Swim Win

Stop at 80% Full

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Food tastes better when you are hungry! Fun holiday foods will be more enjoyable when you are not painfully full. Let’s normalize leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast

Katie Schimmelpfenning, RD, Founder of Eat Swim Win

Eat Seasonal Produce

Bowl Of Farro Risotto With Squash And Fried Sage

For a healthier holiday season, I love to incorporate seasonal produce that still gives that comfort feeling on my holiday menus like a side of butternut squash with roasted beets, goat cheese, and cinnamon. This side is perfect next to your holiday Thanksgiving turkey.

Nicole Ibarra (Swingle), RD, LD.

Exercise or Go For a Walk

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I also love to find new ways to incorporate exercise as the weather cools down. I adjust my activity with the seasons by bundling up to snowboard instead of going hiking. Alternatively, you can bundle up and go for a long walk around the neighborhood when the Christmas lights are up with a healthier hot chocolate made with Fairlife’s Filtered 2% milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, stevia, and a dash of peppermint extract.

Nicole Ibarra, RD, LD

Include Sweet and Treats to Your Balanced Meals and Snacks

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I think we can all agree that during the busy holiday season, nourishing ourselves and practicing balance can feel a bit more challenging. As a dietitian who works with busy moms, my clients often want to set an “all or nothing” rule, restricting themselves from enjoying foods and desserts altogether.

However, my number one tip for healthier eating during the holidays is to plan to add sweets and treats by mindfully incorporating portions of them into your balanced meals and snacks throughout the day.

By giving yourself permission to eat sweets, treats, and your favorite fun foods, you can eat in a way that balances these foods throughout the day, rather than trying to restrict, which oftentimes leads to unintentionally overeating them later on.

Jamie Adams, MS RDN Owner of Mamaste Nutrition, Well Nourished Mamas.

Don’t Save Your Calories

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Don’t save your calories! It’s tempting to “save calories” leading up to a big holiday meal by skipping meals, but it’s only going to make you feel more out of control around the holiday food. Showing up to a holiday meal hungry is like showing up to the grocery store hungry, you’re going to have a hard time making mindful, intentional choices. Instead, focus on regular meals throughout the day so that you show up hungry, not starving.

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian, The Balanced Nutritionist.

Eat Only What’s on Your Plate

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Put your food on a plate, including appetizers. If you want to be mindful of overeating, it can be super helpful to put any food you’re going to eat on a plate. That helps prevent grabbing and eating food mindlessly and can help you gauge how hungry or full you actually are.

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian, The Balanced Nutritionist.

Check In With Yourself

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Check-in with yourself throughout the meal. Are you feeling satisfied? Feeling like you still need a bit more food? Check-in with yourself so that you can catch yourself before you’re stuffed.

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian, The Balanced Nutritionist.

Give Yourself Some Grace

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Sometimes giving yourself some grace is the healthiest thing you can do this holiday season. Most of us are only enjoying a few holiday meals overall, and in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter all that much. Enjoy time with your friends and family. Focus on the day-to-day quality of your diet and habits over a few holiday meals.

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian, The Balanced Nutritionist.

Eat Regular Meals and Snacks

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With holiday parties ramping up, remember to eat regular meals and snacks leading up to those parties. When you skip meals or limit calories in anticipation of certain foods that you may consume later, you can set yourself up for low blood sugar levels. This can lead to impulsive eating habits, overeating, or binge eating.

Instead, eat regular meals that have fiber, protein, and fat in them leading up to the social gathering. This will help you to go into the party feeling more in control and able to make intentional food choices.

Alyssa Pacheco, RD Registered Dietitian, pcosnutritionistalyssa.com

Lean Into Your Routine

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Between the busy bustle of holiday events, lean into your routine. It can be tempting during this season to let go of healthy habits like regular physical activity, good sleep hygiene, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced breakfast. But the more we fold even shortened versions of these grounding lifestyle behaviors into our holiday schedule wherever possible, the easier it is to optimize our health throughout the holidays and beyond.

Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN owner of Malina Malkani Nutrition and author of Safe and Simple Food Allergy Prevention.

Fill Your Plate With Protein and Fiber First

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You don’t want to be too restrictive during the holidays because then you will likely end up bingeing on the foods you crave. The best nutrition tip I give is to first fill your plate with a protein source and a fiber source (vegetables, whole grains), and then include your favorite holiday foods. That way you are getting the nutrients your body needs while enjoying the foods you love.

Sarah Alsing, MS, RD Registered Dietitian and founder of Delightfully Fueled.

Have a Colorful Plate

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Make your plate colorful by filling it with fruits and vegetables. This can help you get the nutrients you need while still enjoying the flavors of the season.

Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness.

Choose a Lean Protein Source for Your Plate

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Lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and tofu are great options for adding protein to your meals, which can help you stay fuller for longer.

Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness.

Eat the Foods You Love

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Give yourself permission to eat the foods you love. If you try to place rigid rules around holiday desserts or other foods that bring you joy, chances are high you will eventually feel out of control around them. Instead, making your favorite foods fair game will help lessen the emotional charge and foster a stronger trust in yourself and your body to tell you when you’ve had enough.

Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT, owner of Whole Self Nutrition. https://www.thewholeyogird.com/

Take Time for Joyful Movement

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Make at least a little time for joyful movement amidst the busy holiday season. Even if it’s just five minutes of yoga or a quick loop around the block, a little bit of movement on a regular basis goes a long way for physical, mental, and emotional wellness.

Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT, owner of Whole Self Nutrition. https://www.thewholeyogird.com/

Try Air Fryer Recipes

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Lighten up some of your favorite holiday recipes by cooking them in the air fryer. This is a great way to achieve a crispy texture without excess oil from deep frying. Embracing the convenience of using an air fryer also means you can spend more time with your family and stress less in the kitchen. Try making classic recipes like veggie tots or corn fritters with Libby’s Vegetables in the air fryer. Using ready-to-go canned veggies, like Libby’s, is another way to embrace convenience during this busy season.

Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Recipe Developer at Cheerful Choices.

Keep Healthy Dips on Hand

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The holiday season comes with an abundance of tempting treats like cookies and indulgent party dips. To support your best health during the holidays, I have a tried-and-true tip for festive and nutritious holiday entertaining: keep a selection of wholesome dips on hand! One of my favorites is guacamole, a top choice for its rich nutrient profile, primarily derived from avocados, which are a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals. Avocados deliver a bounty of nutrients, including potassium, folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, and various B vitamins. Furthermore, guacamole is a superb source of dietary fiber, aiding in digestion and promoting satiety.

Given the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it convenient to have Wholly Guacamole in my fridge. Made with 100% hand-scooped haas avocados and no added preservatives, Wholly Guacamole makes enjoying delicious guacamole simple and hassle-free. Pro tip: consider garnishing your guacamole with pomegranate seeds and pepitas for an added touch of festivity!

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Founder of @healthygrocerygirl and @funwithfoodkids

Preempt Over Eating

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The holidays can be an incredibly challenging time for people to stick to their health and wellness goals. The best nutrition tip one can follow throughout the holiday season is to practice pre-emptive eating. Pre-emptive eating refers to consuming balanced meals (and even snacks) throughout the day despite going to a holiday party or dinner. Many people skip meals during the holiday season to “save” their calories for later on. However, that is not recommended. Skipping meals and snacks leads to increased hunger when you start eating and typically encourages overconsumption.

Plus, those holiday foods that are overconsumed when you finally do eat are usually empty calories, meaning they are high in sugars and fats with little nutrient value. Pre-emptive eating can stimulate your metabolism throughout the day and ensure you are getting proper nutrient-dense foods to nourish your body. Additionally, consuming excess calories at one period of time can cause more inflammation than any individual food component.

Elle Bernado, MS, RDN, LDN, head of nutrition at Health Meets Wellness

The 15 Healthiest Canned Foods To Stock Up On

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Having canned goods stocked in your pantry can help ensure you always have access to quick, healthy meals and snacks. Registered Dietitians love canned foods as they are nutritious, accessible and affordable, especially choices that are lower in sodium and added sugar.

To help stock your pantry, we asked nutrition experts to share their healthiest canned food picks– these are their top 15 must-have canned foods.

Read: The 15 Healthiest Canned Foods To Stock Up On

Nutritionists Can’t Live Without These 17 Healthy Trader Joe’s Buys

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Trader Joe’s has become a go-to grocery store for many health-conscious shoppers looking for great values on nutritious foods. With so many options lining the shelves, what are the best bets for healthy options according to experts?

We consulted Registered Dietitians across the country about their top food finds at Trader Joe’s. From plant-based proteins to snacking staples and everything in between, these dietitians handpicked their must-have items to fill your cart with.

These are Registered Dietitian’s favorite Trader Joe’s products.

Read: Nutritionists Can’t Live Without These 17 Healthy Trader Joe’s Buys

22 Nutritionist-Approved Packaged Snacks You Can Feel Good About Eating

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Having dietitian-approved snacks on hand can make sticking to your health goals much easier when hunger hits. With minimal prep and portion control, these snacks offer an easy way to curb cravings and give your body the fuel it needs.

These are the best store-bought, dietitian-approved snacks.

Read: 22 Nutritionist-Approved Packaged Snacks You Can Feel Good About Eating

The Best ALDI Finds According to Nutrition Experts

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With its low prices and clever finds, Aldi has become a go-to grocery store for many shoppers looking to save money.

We asked registered dietitians to share their favorite Aldi buys. From healthy snack foods to lean protein choices to vitamin-packed produce, these experts revealed their top Aldi picks that deliver great nutrition without costing too much.

Read: The Best ALDI Finds According to Nutrition Experts

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Chef, and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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