Behavior & Development • Nov 23, 2015

Making the holidays healthy for the whole family: foods to choose and calories to avoid

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year….” 

And yet for our waistlines…..maybe not so much!  It’s easier to hibernate, get less activity, have more parties, shorter daylight hours, and so many winter comfort foods!!!! So how are you to “survive” the extra food & beverages that taunt you at those fun events???  Let’s count it down 12 ways — pear tree style:

  1. Don’t arrive to a social function with a big appetite. Have a small snack beforehand to take off the edge: raw vegetables, low-fat yogurts, low-fat cheese or whole-grain crackers.
  1. Engage in daily, moderate physical activity. Two 15-minute walks each day can make a difference by burning about 100 calories. This is especially easy to do when you’re holiday shopping. Or maybe walk from your car to your desk.
  1. WATCH what you drink! Alcohol contains calories, but goes down so easy:  By the numbers…..
  • 3-ounce vodka martini: 200 Calories
  • 5-ounce glass of wine: 125 Calories.
  • 12-ounce bottle of beer: 145 Calories
  • 12-ounce bottle of light beer: 110  Calories
  • 12 ounce bottle of Bud Select: 99 Calories
  • 12-ounce bottle of Bud Select 55: 55 Calories (bring your own!)
  • Alternate drinks with a glass of sparkling water, and drink in moderation.
    • Men, that means no more than three drinks per day.
    • Women, that means no more than two drinks per day.
  • One drink equals:
    • 5 ounces of wine
    • 12 ounces of beer
    • 5 ounces of liquor.
      ALSO: when you drink, your inhibitions go, too….so make sure to “be strong” – and don’t “let yourself go” – after you start drinking
  • Non-alcoholic beverages: go to to find your beverage of choice
  1. Keep a food record. Nothing makes you more aware of what you are eating than writing it down. Download apps that easily help you track your consumption!
  1. Eat breakfast. People who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Don’t make the mistake of “saving up” on calories because you know you have a holiday party to go to that night. Eat regularly throughout the day, about every three to five hours. That way you are not so likely to overindulge.
  1. Plan ahead. Set realistic daily goals for yourself. It is important to start thinking about making healthy food choices before arriving at the party.
  1. Don’t socialize near the food table. We tend to eat what we see the most of, and visual cues may trigger you to keep eating even if you aren’t hungry. Proximity makes it easy to graze. Think about the bonus of more steps when you walk away from the table!
  1. Focus on fiber. High-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in volume and satisfying, but lower in calories.
  1. Practice portion control. Eat slowly and use small plates. Fill up half your plate with lower-calorie items such as raw vegetables or shrimp cocktail.
  1. Watch the dips & sauces: Dips, sauces, gravies, and “extras”- add up and are usually full of fat. So go easy on portions, choose light options, or just eat them plain. (Even veggies can be high in calories if covered in ranch dip!)
  1. Hydrate: And alcoholic beverages don’t count! I’m not referring to #3. Winter months bring heaters, dryer air, and often we don’t drink as much when it is chillier outside. So yes- DRINK YOUR WATER!  It is also true, sometimes when we think we are hungry- we may just be thirsty.  So quench your thirst first- then reach for the “special drink” – or food!
  1. Guarantee a healthy choice for yourself by bringing a dish or drink that is a part of your healthy eating plan like a vegetable tray, low-fat spinach dip, or a low calorie dessert.

Overall- ENJOY the season!  Prepare to make healthy choices MOST of the time.  Every healthy choice makes a difference and adds up and reduces, or in this case take away from those holiday calories that creep into our diet.  Remember, choice, not chance, determines how many calories you consume!