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Stay on track with your health during the holidays

December 4, 2018

Dipti Shah, M.S., RDN, LDN, Clinical Dietitian

The holiday season has arrived, and it’s time for family, festivities and food – lots of food. Sweet treats and rich meals can be disruptive to daily routines. However, there are sensible ways to enjoy the season. Attending a party? Try the following strategies to stay on track with your health goals:

Do not arrive hungry to the party

Saving your appetite for the big holiday feast often leads to over eating at the party. Start your day with a wholesome breakfast and be sure to eat a light meal or snack before arriving to the party. Snack examples include a lean meat sandwich with low-fat cheese, whole grain toast with nut butter and a fruit, one pita pocket or wrap with hummus and veggies.

Eat smart at the party

If you are at a buffet table, be sure to scan it before you enter the line to choose foods wisely. Use a smaller plate to keep the portion sizes in check and start with sides such as vegetables and salad before going to entrees and desserts. Eat slowly, savor every bite and follow the rule- “wait 10 before having seconds,” which is waiting 10 minutes before you go back for seconds to see if you are truly hungry.

Watch the liquid calories

Traditional drinks and cocktails often contain a large number of calories. One cup of eggnog can set you back around 360 calories, while hot chocolate can contain around 200 calories. Alcoholic mixed drinks and punches can contain over 200 calories, easily. Opt instead for a glass of sparkling water with a splash of your favorite juice or wine.

Get moving

At the party, stay away from the food table and spend time enjoying the company of others. This will keep you moving and the more time you spend talking, the less time you’ll spend eating. Also, continue your regular physical activity during the holidays and do not let the holidays deter you from exercising. Break up your workouts throughout the day or find a way to squeeze in some physical activity each day. If you are hosting the holiday dinner, you are likely to have more control over the menu and recipes. Add a healthier touch to traditional holiday recipes by:

  • Buying low-sodium ham or turkey
  • Substituting whole wheat bread for white bread or ditch the bread and try grains such as quinoa, couscous or farro for stuffing
  • Substituting some butter with low-sodium chicken stock
  • Ditching canned cranberry sauce and trying homemade cranberry relish instead
  • Substituting sautéed or oven-roasted vegetables for a casserole
  • Substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream
  • Substituting a cup of mashed cauliflower for a cup of mashed potatoes to cut back on calories
  • Using mashed banana, unsweetened applesauce, and/or pumpkin in baked goods
  • Mixing ½ cup of eggnog with ½ cup of skim milk for a lower-calorie drink

Lastly, do not forget to have fun because when you focus more on the fun, it is easier to focus less on the food.

Enjoy this great recipe for a healthier stuffing this holiday season.

Apple, Cranberry, and Pecan Stuffing

Serves 12. Serving size 2/3 cup.


  • 12 ounces whole-grain bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 large Fuji apple, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Arrange bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Place bread in a large bowl.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrot to pan; sauté 6 minutes. Add apple; cook 4 minutes. Stir in pecans, cranberries, parsley, salt and pepper. Add apple mixture to bread; toss.
  5. Combine stock, butter and eggs in a bowl. Drizzle over bread mixture; toss. Let stand 15 minutes. Spoon into a 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories 230; Fat 13.3g; Protein 7g; Carbohydrate 23g; Fiber 4g; Sodium 271mg; Sugars 9g