Eat up during the holidays, but keep an eye on nutrition

by Eric Gorton



Opportunities to overeat abound during the holidays. From people bringing food to the office to parties to family gatherings, food — usually the high calorie variety — is everywhere. Overindulging can be hard to resist, but there are ways to enjoy holiday eating and still maintain a healthy diet. 

Here are some suggestions from the dietetics department at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia: 

Don't skip meals. It does your body more harm than good. When you skip meals it slows down your metabolism which can result in you actually gaining weight and/or making it harder for you to lose weight. By skipping a meal you are technically starving your body of the necessary nutrients that it needs to function properly. When your body is starving it typically leads to you overeating or craving unhealthy foods. 

Eat small portions. Holidays focus a lot of attention on food: holiday work parties, family and friend’s dinner parties, and other gatherings. A common mistake is piling too much on the plate, even foods that are perceived to be healthy. Remember that moderation is key, especially at the holidays. One strategy for eating in moderation is using a small plate. 

Take time before taking seconds. It takes time for stomach to signal brain it is full. It isn’t an immediate response to your brain when your stomach becomes full so it is important to eat your food slow. Once you are done with your first serving, wait 10-minutes before going back for seconds. This will allow your stomach time to digest and you can better assess if you are still hungry or not. 

Don't go to events on an empty stomach. In order to avoid snacking on unhealthy foods at parties/get-togethers, have a little pre-party snack. The best kind would be a mixture of carbohydrates and proteins; apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat bread. 

Don’t forget, drinks have calories too. Drink a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. This way you are hydrating in between drinks and it will slow down your drinking. When using mixers in your drinks use low-calorie options: zero-calorie tonic water or club soda; this will make your drink reduced in calories. 

Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. It is best to avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol increases your appetite and has a tendency of making you crave unhealthy nutrient-dense food choices. Remember to have a small snack before going out when you know you are going to be drinking. 

Stay active. Make sure you always keep moving! The holidays can be a great time to participate in physical activity with your family, friend, co-workers, etc. You can sign-up for a holiday (turkey trots, drumstick dash) 5k race or simply just go for a walk together as after dinner. 

Don't ignore fruits and vegetables. At holiday parties it can be easy to overlook fruits and vegetables and go straight for the sweets. Fruits and veggies make a great snack that is also a healthy alternative instead of chips and dip.


To arrange an interview with a faculty member in dietetics, contact Eric Gorton at or 540-908-1760.



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Published: Friday, October 11, 2019

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021

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