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10 Survival Tips for Holiday Eating
With careful planning, you can avoid holiday weight gain. Here are some savvy strategies to get you started.

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Picture of holiday cookies 10 Survival Tips for Holiday Eating

Dinners, parties and treats - the holidays can wreak havoc on your healthy eating plan.

The average person gains some weight between the Thanksgiving and New Year's holidays. The extra weight you pack on during those six weeks may take six months to lose. Worse yet, the extra pounds may raise the risk of problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

A little planning can help you avoid holiday weight gain. Here are some strategies:

  1. Plan ahead. Visualize what you will do at a party before you arrive. This will help you stick to a plan. Some ideas:
    • If you drink, have only one alcoholic beverage, followed by mineral water or club soda.
    • Pick out a favorite dessert and have only one small piece.
    • Focus on enjoying good conversation, not on eating.
  2. Don't starve yourself. Eat fruit, fat-free yogurt or another healthy snack before the party to curb your hunger so you don't binge. If the event is in the evening, make sure to have a healthy breakfast and lunch.
  3. Bring your own. Offer to bring an appetizer such as fresh vegetables and low-fat dip. Or, ask to bring a healthy dish for the main meal. This way, you are assured there will be something "safe" to eat. Others will appreciate your efforts, too!
  4. Be realistic. Rather than trying to drop pounds during the holidays, strive to maintain your weight.
  5. Exercise. Sign up for a 5K, fitness walk or other fitness event. Exercise is a great way to prevent holiday weight gain. It also can help with stress and depression, which are common during the holidays. Check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.
  6. Keep a journal. Holidays can be stressful. Sometimes we turn to food for comfort. Write down what you eat, when you eat and why you're eating. Over time, it may help you spot patterns and deal with stress without food.
  7. Make smart substitutions. Practice making your favorite dishes healthier.
    • Try cutting sugar by one-third.
    • Use trans-fat-free margarine instead of lard or butter.
    • Use 1 percent or evaporated skim milk instead of whole milk or cream.
  8. Choose beverages wisely. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain 150 to 450 calories per glass.
    • If you do drink, go for light wines and beers. Use nonalcoholic mixers such as water or seltzer.
    • Watch out for sugary drinks - fruit punch, juice and eggnog. All are high in calories.
    • If you choose to drink, men should have no more than two drinks per day and women should have one.
  9. Keep perspective. If you overindulge, put it behind you. It takes days of overeating to gain weight. Return to your eating plan the next day and leave your guilt behind.
  10. Celebrate the true meaning of the holiday. Play down the importance of food. Focus on what the holidays are really about - spending time with family and friends.

Greg Breining contributed to this report.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
Created on 11/21/2000
Updated on 11/28/2012
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. Federal Occupational Health. Let’s talk: Maintain don’t gain.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Managing diabetes during the holidays.
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Health tips for healthy holiday eating.
  • National Institutes of Health. The holidays are coming! Time to start planning for healthy holiday meals.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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