Healthy Eating During the Holiday Season

by Sheila Kealey

Eating takes on a new dimension during social gatherings and holidays. Besides our usual meals, we manage to fit in seasonal treats and party foods, which seem to tempt our taste buds everywhere we turn. Since food is one of the many pleasures of festive gatherings, having a few strategies like the ones below will help you enjoy the celebrations while maintaining a healthful eating plan.

Appetizing Advice

Appetizers are a hallmark of festive gatherings. Though originally intended to stimulate the appetite before a meal, during the holiday season it’s not uncommon to make a meal of these tasty tidbits.

Since many types of appetizers are laden with unhealthy fats and high calories, control your portions and choose wisely. Follow the tips below to guide you toward the appetizers that will satisfy while offering the greatest health benefits.

  • Nutritious and low calorie appetizers include the crunchy and colorful items from the vegetable platter.
  • Hummus or other bean-type dips feature protective legumes and fiber, and are relatively low in fat. They are usually a better choice than cheese or creamy style dips.
  • Limit high fat/high calorie appetizers. These include stuffed mushrooms, items in puffed pastry, mini quiches, cheese, and crackers.
  • Lower calorie and nutritious choices include shrimp, oysters and other seafood, or pita crisps and salsa.
  • Consume appetizers in moderation, especially if they precede a full course meal.
  • Contribute a healthy appetizer! This Cranberry Salsa Dip with Goat Cheese is a festive-looking dish that provides wonderful flavors and good nutrition.

6 Strategies for Social Situations

  1. Eat a healthy high-fiber snack before the celebration instead of “saving room” for party food. A satisfied stomach will help you be more selective in your food choices at the party.
  2. Nibble on vegetables first before sampling higher-calorie treats.
  3. Practice portion control. Fill half your plate with vegetables or salads if they are part of the options. Choose small portions of high calorie/high fat treats.
  4. Eat mindfully: chew slowly and savour the flavours.
  5. Make physical activity a priority or it might not happen. Socialize with friends or family during a walk before or after dinner.
  6. Get enough sleep. You will feel less stressed, better rested, and won’t try to keep up your energy by overeating when you feel tired.

Sheila Kealey is a health promotion consultant, writer, and athlete passionate about encouraging lifestyle habits that promote good health.  She has a Masters’ degree in Public Health and has collaborated on many research articles related to diet and health. Sheila cross country ski races with XC Ottawa, and also competes in triathlons and running races (5k’s are her favourite, but she has gone the distance once, running a 2:57 marathon).  Sheila loves developing healthy recipes, and coauthored the cookbook and nutrition guide Food For Thought: Healing Foods to Savor.  Sheila shares advice on nutrition, physical activity, sports science, and tasty nourishing foods ontwitter and her website.