It can feel impossible to stay focused on healthy eating during the holidays. You’ve got more parties to attend, more tasty temptations to eat, and not enough time to sleep—never mind exercise! It can be challenging, absolutely, but don’t give up! If you’re looking for the best advice on how to get through the season of splurges—and get a head start on your new year’s resolutions—who better to turn to than healthy eating experts?
We asked five registered dietitians for the inside scoop on how they manage to stay focused and fit during the holidays. Straight from the pros, here are their favorite personal strategies.
Make a Healthy Holiday Meal Plan
“My number one tip is to stay as consistent as possible with your daily routine of healthy eating. To help, I highly recommend menu planning to make sure healthy meals make it to the table throughout the week, even on days when you’re attending holiday parties or celebrations. Having healthy ingredients on hand for last minute snack attacks or post-party munchies also helps. I create grocery lists, so I stay focused at the supermarket and don’t get sidetracked by sale items, especially around the holidays, when extra goodies are at the front of every aisle. For inspiration, take a look at my weekly Menu Plan Monday posts.”
—Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary nutrition expert, and healthy living blogger of Nutritioulicious
Never Hit a Cocktail Party Hungry
“Eat before you go. Many think I’m insane to suggest this, but it’s the best piece of advice. A common approach is to save your calories because you know dinner is going to be large, but when you walk into an event hungry, you’re not setting yourself up for success. You’ll probably overeat, and your body will store the extra food as fat. Eat a mini meal before you leave your house—balancing some protein, vegetables, a little fat, and a little starch—so you feel satiated.”
—Jae Berman, MS, RDN, CSSD, and head coach at the new personalized nutrition company Habit
Savor Small Bites of Decadent Treats
“Follow the two-bite rule. I love sampling and tasting all the dishes at an event. In order to not go overboard and eat too much of the rich, buttery/oily/cheesy indulgences, I follow the two-bite rule: Put about two small bites of the exquisite dish on your plate. Only fill one plate of food. And take your time to eat those items, truly savoring the flavor.”
—Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, and founder of Whole Body Reboot
Make Time to Move in the Hustle and Bustle
“Continue to prioritize exercise. This season gets busy! With three kids and running my own business, I understand this well. I schedule my holiday to-do’s well in advance. Exercise continues to take the same time slots as usual, and shopping, cooking, wrapping, and granola gift-making get scheduled in week by week around that. It takes the stress off. You can shop online at night, but you can’t exercise when tired or in bed.”
—Lauren Antonucci, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDE, CDN, triathlete, and owner and director of Nutrition Energy
Eat Well for Most of the Season
“One meal won’t ‘make’ or ‘break’ your health. But two months of overindulging will. What you eat on a regular basis will keep you healthy or gradually contribute to weight gain—so most of the time, focus on healthy eating. Outside of special occasions, view every meal as an opportunity to get your health on track. Fill half your plate with plant-based fresh foods and less of your plate with meat. Choose whole grains, beans, and fish over highly processed foods.”
—Christy Wilson, RD, nutrition counselor at the University of Arizona Campus Health Service, and founder of Christy Wilson Nutrition Consulting Service
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.