How To Stay On Track During The Holidays: 10 Dietitian Tips

The holiday season brings joy, celebration, and lots of food. But you may be wondering how to stay on track during the holidays. It is often challenging to resist tempting treats, but maintaining healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices is important for long-term health.

In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 tips from a dietitian (Me: Noah RD)  that can help you navigate the holiday season while keeping your health and fitness goals in check. 

10 Dietitian Tips For How To Stay On Track During The Holidays

  1. Set Clear Goals: Establish clear goals to provide direction and motivation.
  2. Plan Ahead: Plan meals and activity schedules and prioritize all food groups.
  3. Mindful Eating: Savoring each bite, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues.
  4. Portion Control: Learn to manage portion sizes effectively.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Increase water intake, and choose drinks wisely.
  6. Choose Wisely:  Identify healthier options.
  7. Stay Active: Incorporate exercise into your routine.
  8. Seek Support: Recognize the value of social support.
  9. Enjoy Treats in Moderation: Embrace the 80/20 rule for eating.
  10. Reflect and Adjust: Engage in self-reflection and self-monitoring.  

Tip 1: Set Clear Goals

The first step to staying on track during the holidays is to set clear and well-defined goals. By establishing realistic and specific objectives for the holiday season, you can better focus your efforts and stay motivated to make healthy choices. 

Establishing Realistic and Specific Goals for the Holidays: 

  • Identify Your Objective: Set specific goals and track progress.
  • Be Realistic: When setting goals, ensure they’re realistic and achievable. I suggest to my clients to focus on maintaining their weight. 
  • Break It Down: Consider setting weekly or bi-weekly goals aligning with your objective. 

Setting clear goals during the holidays helps you stay focused, have direction, and track progress. Share your goals with someone to increase accountability. Read more about setting goals.

Examples of Achievable Holiday Health Goals

  • Stay Active: Aim to engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days, whether it’s a brisk walk, a home workout, or dancing to holiday music.
  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: If you choose to consume alcohol, establish a limit for yourself and alternate alcoholic beverages with water to stay hydrated. You can also track your alcohol intake.
  • Mindful Eating: Make it a goal to practice mindful eating during holiday meals by savoring each bite, eating slowly, and paying attention to hunger and fullness cues.
  • Stay Hydrated: Aim to drink adequate water daily to help keep you hydrated.

Tip 2: Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is a strategy for staying on track during the holidays. By preparing in advance, you can make thoughtful choices about what you eat and how you spend your time. 

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of planning and how to create a meal and activity plan.

The Benefits of Planning for Holiday Meals and Events

  • Avoid Impulse Decisions: Planning ahead for holiday gatherings helps you make mindful food decisions instead of relying on impulsive choices.
  • Reduce Stress: Plan ahead for holiday meals to reduce stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Stay Consistent: Holiday planning can help you stay on track with your health goals.

Creating a Meal and Activity Schedule

  • Balanced Plate: When planning your holiday meals, aim to include all five food groups on your plate: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. This ensures a well-rounded and nutritious meal.
  • Meal Timing: Plan your meals and snacks regularly throughout the day to avoid excessive hunger, which can lead to overeating. 
  • Activity Schedule: Incorporate physical activity into your holiday plan: schedule gym sessions, outdoor workouts, or group activities with family and friends. 
  • Group Activity: Organize activities involving physical movements, such as family walks, hikes, or friendly sports competitions. 

Tip 3: Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is an intentional approach to consuming food. It involves being fully present during meals, paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and savoring the flavors and textures of your food. 

Incorporating mindful eating into your holiday season can help you make more conscious food choices and prevent overeating. 

Techniques for Practicing Mindfulness During Holiday Meals

  1. Engage Your Senses: Savor your holiday dishes’ colors, scents, and flavors.
  2. Chew Slowly: Eating slowly and intentionally helps you savor each bite and recognize when you’re full.
  3. Put Down Utensils: Put down your fork or spoon between bites to eat mindfully and slow your meal’s pace.
  4. Take Breaks: Pause during your meal to check in with your body. Are you still hungry? Do you feel satisfied? Use these moments to assess your fullness level.
  5. Practice Gratitude: Be grateful for the food and company, which can enhance your meal.

Tip 4: Portion Control

Portion control is key to maintaining a healthy diet during the holidays. It involves being mindful of how much food you consume, which can help you manage calorie intake, prevent overeating, and maintain your health goals. 

Strategies for Controlling Portions During Holiday Feasts

  1. Build a Balanced Plate: Aim to include all five food groups on your plate: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. 
  2. Start with Veggies: Fill a significant portion of your plate with vegetables or salads before adding other dishes.
  3. Practice the Half-Plate Rule: Visualize dividing your plate in half. Fill one half with vegetables or salads, a quarter with lean protein, and the remaining quarter with starches or grains.
  4. Mindful Serving: When serving yourself, take a moment to assess your hunger and portion accordingly. 
  5. Savor Each Bite: Eat slowly, savor each bite, and enjoy the flavors and textures of your food.

Tip 5: Stay Hydrated

It’s important to stay hydrated during the holiday season to maintain good health and control your appetite. Dehydration can be confused with hunger, causing you to consume unnecessary calories. You can also reduce your calorie intake by replacing high-calorie drinks with calorie-free options.

Tips for Increasing Water Intake During Holiday Gatherings

  1. Meal Hydration: Drink one glass of water with each meal
  2. Alternate with Water: While enjoying alcoholic or sugary drinks, alternate each drink with a glass of water. 
  3. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle: Having a bottle of water handly makes it much more likely that you will meet your hydration goals. 
  4. Zero Calorie Options: Choosing calorie-free and diet options will help reduce your daily calorie intake. 
  5. Set Hydration Goals: Set a daily hydration goal and track your water intake.

Tip 6: Choose Wisely

With several holidays over three months (November, December, January), making healthy food choices during holiday gatherings becomes crucial for staying on track with your health goals.

Enjoying delicious holiday foods while prioritizing your health goals is possible. 

Tips for Making Healthy Food Choices at Holiday Parties

  • Survey the Spread: Before filling your plate at the buffet, survey all the options to plan your meal strategically.
  • Prioritize Nutrient-Dense Foods: Fill your plate with nutrient-dense options like lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. 
  • Choose Lean Proteins: Opt for lean protein sources such as turkey, chicken, or tofu. 
  • Load Up on Vegetables: Make vegetables a centerpiece of your meal. 

Tip 7: Stay Active

Maintaining physical activity during the holiday season is essential for your physical and mental health. 

It helps you manage stress, sleep better, burn extra calories, boost energy, and stay on track with your health goals. If there was one tip, this one: stay active during the holidays!  

Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Your Holiday Routine

  1. Schedule Workouts: Plan your exercise routine in advance and schedule it into your calendar as if it were a non-negotiable appointment.
  2. Short, Intense Workouts: If you don’t have much time, try HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) for a quick and effective workout. 
  3. Home Workouts: You can find effective home workout routines online or use resistance bands or body weights for a quick workout.
  4. Group Activities: Involve family and friends in activities like group hikes, holiday-themed runs, or friendly sports competitions. 
  5. Walk Whenever Possible: Take advantage of opportunities to get a few more steps in. Creating a steps challenge could be an excellent way for everyone to get involved.  

Tip 8: Seek Support

During the holidays, seeking support from friends, family, or professionals can help you stay on track with your health and nutrition goals.

The Value of Social Support for Staying on Track

  • Accountability: Having a support system increases accountability and commitment to goals.
  • Emotional Support: The holidays can be stressful and lead to emotional eating. Seeking emotional support can help you navigate these challenges.
  • Motivation: Support from loved ones or a community can motivate and inspire perseverance.
  • Practical Assistance: Friends and family can offer practical help, such as preparing healthier holiday dishes or finding active ways to spend time together.

As a registered dietitian, I specialize in helping individuals like you achieve their health and nutrition goals. Contact me today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward a healthier and happier holiday season. 

Tip 9: Enjoy Treats in Moderation

Balancing desserts and treats with moderation is a key aspect of maintaining a healthy and sustainable approach to nutrition during the holiday season. 

You don’t want to miss out, but you don’t want to eat 18 pieces of Halloween candy.

Tips for Savoring Holiday Treats Without Guilt

  1. Portion Control: Enjoy treats in moderation and savor each bite to appreciate the flavors and textures fully.
  2. Quality Over Quantity: Choose high-quality treats that you genuinely love rather than indulging in everything available. 
  3. Plan Ahead: If you know you’ll enjoy a special treat, plan for it by making healthier choices earlier in the day or week to balance your overall intake.
  4. Stay Active: Incorporate physical activity into your routine to help manage the extra calories.  
  5. Practice Self-Compassion: Don’t beat yourself up for enjoying a treat. 

Tip 10: Reflect and Adjust

Successfully navigating the holiday season while maintaining health and nutrition goals requires self-reflection and adaptability.

Evaluating Your Progress and Making Adjustments as Needed

  1. Track Your Food Intake: Track your holiday food intake with a journal or app to improve your eating habits.
  2. Measure Your Progress: Use body measurements and the scale to understand your progress better.
  3. Monitor Health Metrics: Monitor your health concerns, like blood sugar and blood pressure, during the holidays. Regular check-ins with your healthcare provider can help you stay healthy.
  4. Celebrate Successes: Acknowledge and celebrate even small successes. This positive reinforcement can motivate healthy choices.
  5. Identify Challenges: Consider holiday challenges that led to unhealthy eating habits. Recognizing these factors can help prevent them in the future.

Conclusion

As you embark on this holiday season, remember that it’s possible to prioritize your health while enjoying the joys of the holidays. 

A balance between enjoyment and moderation is key to ensuring a healthy and happy holiday season. By following these helpful tips, you can achieve this balance effortlessly. 

Noah Quezada is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of more than a decade, he has gained extensive experience in helping clients manage their weight through in-person sessions. Noah is also the 2023 President of the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.