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The holidays are frequently associated with eating delicious foods. Using smaller plates, not skipping meals, and taking your time are a few ways to eat healthier.
October 5, 2020

Food tips for healthy holidays

By: Nadine Nevland, Registered Dietitian at McMaster Children’s Hospital

The holidays are frequently associated with family meals and, sometimes, extra treats. These tips are designed to help you navigate holiday meals with confidence while maintaining a healthy relationship with food.

Highlight “nutritious and delicious” but don’t leave out your favourites

Try to feature vegetables and include whole grains. For example, you could make your stuffing with barley, wild rice, or whole grain bread. Be sure to make your family favourites too! Whether or not you’re the cook, fill up on veggies, whole grains, and lean protein first, then savour small bites of the less nutritious – but still delicious – foods you are craving.

Avoid overeating with these strategies

Don’t skip meals. Many people skip meals with the intent to save room for later. Unfortunately, this can actually have the opposite effect. The extra hunger makes you likely to eat more. You may also eat faster, enjoy your food less, and feel the negative effects of overeating. Instead, consider eating light, nutritious options in advance of a big meal to avoid over-indulgence and keep feeling good throughout your holiday. For example, enjoy a small lunch of vegetables, fruit, whole grain crackers, and cheese.

Consider using small plates. You can always get seconds if you are still hungry. This method will give you more time to recognize when you are full. While you eat, take the time to enjoy each bite, especially if it’s a food you eat less often.

When the meal is done, put the food away. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”

Tea being poured into tea cup

Low calorie drinks such as coffee, tea, or water are healthy choices.

Balance beverage choices

The holidays aren’t just stuffed with delicious foods, they’re also filled with sweet beverages. Seek low-calorie choices like water, flavoured water, tea, or coffee. When consuming alcohol, ensure you drink sufficient water. Limit the special sweet holiday drinks to one serving and consider lighter options if you choose to keep drinking beyond this.

Find joy beyond food

Food is integral to many celebrations. It can be easy to forget that there are other ways to enjoy the holidays. Think about non-food activities to fill the time like socializing online, playing games with the people in your household, outdoor activities, and learning about others.

Practice grace over guilt

It’s easy to get lost in holiday goodies and then berate yourself for your choices. Give yourself the grace to enjoy yourself, even if that means some indulgences. Instead of feeling guilty, be honest with yourself about your choices. When it comes to eating and health, it’s your overall eating pattern that matters, not a few days in the year.

Remember, enjoying food with others is an important part of healthy eating too.

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