Healthy Holidays: Tips to Prevent Overindulging

Disclaimer: This is a guest post from Dr. Leanne Redman, associate professor of women’s health studies at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. You can get to know her more here and read her first post here. Her facts and opinions are based on her personal research. Red Stick Moms Blog was not paid to promote any specific medical viewpoints or studies. Always consult your physician with any medical questions.


The holidays are here yet again! The pots and pans are clinging, jingle bells are ringing, and the aroma of freshly baked desserts fills the air. Research has shown that each year adults gain 5-8 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but this does not have to be true for you!

Why do we feel hungrier around the holidays?

Large quantities of food tend to lead to unconscious overeating behaviors. The smell and sight of the food triggers signals of hunger in the body.


What can we do?

A Few Tips

Set realistic goals in advance! For example, if you‘re dreaming of a slice of Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie then plan to cut back on the bread or potatoes at dinner.
If you are going somewhere for the holidays, try not to arrive with an empty stomach. Eat a bowl of oatmeal, an apple, or other healthy snack on the way so you can avoid overeating when you arrive.
Harvard Medical School recommends savoring the moment by eating slowly. Allow your body time to feel full. After you are done eating, try not to sit right by the food table. This will tempt you to fix another plate or indulge in additional desserts.
Drink plenty of water. Remember calories are found in beverages too!
Making a conscious effort for smaller portion sizes can also protect against unwanted pounds. The American Heart Association Holiday Healthy Eating Guide can be found at

A Few Healthy Substitutions

holiday3If you are bringing a dish for the holidays, be the one to bring a nutritious one. Your family and friends will thank you for it. For finger foods, you can bring nuts, reduced fat cheese, fresh fruit, or veggie platters. If you are bringing a side dish consider sweet potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes, vegetable casseroles without the cheese sauce, or even a salad.
The American Heart Association suggests limiting your sodium intake by being conscious of the ingredients used when preparing meals. If there are lower sodium options like reduced sodium soups or no salt added canned vegetables, try them! They also recommend using herbs and spices to enhance flavor instead of butter or salt.
UCLA encourages grabbing the white meat instead of dark meat for the holidays and avoiding the skin of the meat to monitor calorie intake.

Healthy Holiday Recipes

Take the high fiber route. Compliment your holiday turkey with festive Wild Rice Pilaf.
Go green! Try a different kind of green vegetable this year (maybe asparagus or brussel sprouts)
Substitute whole wheat flour for delicious and healthier sugar cookies.

Pay Extra Attention to Color

The American Institute for Cancer Research advises making color a part of holiday meal selections. Pumpkins, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes are rich sources of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant and is good for eye health and boosting your immune system. Sweet potatoes are also good sources for dietary fiber and low in fat. Cranberries are loaded with Vitamin C and provide some fiber. Green beans have beneficial amounts of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium and folate. Nuts are high in healthy fats and provide protein and fiber.

Why wait?

Kick start healthy habits before the New Year! It IS possible to avoid overindulging and gaining unwanted weight during the holidays. Start by putting your favorite tip from above into practice. Lead the masses and follow your New Year’s resolutions by getting back into a regular exercise regime, decreasing your calorie intake, and eating more fruits and vegetables. More importantly, making healthy improvements for the holidays also fuels changes that can last ALL year!

If you find yourself (with the majority of Americans) 5 pounds heavier after the holidays, it is important to get the weight off just as fast as it came. If you don’t and you gain 5 pounds every holiday season for the next 10 years, you can be 50 pounds heavier- and that’s ONLY from holiday cheer!

For more ways to create a healthy plate for the holidays, visit USDA’s MyPlate Holiday Makeover.

What tips do you have for staying healthy over the holidays?

DR-REDMAN_Jan2012_2_croppedDr. Leanne Redman works at Pennington Biomedical Research Center as an Associate Professor while holding adjunct appointments with the LSU Graduate School as well as the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of the LSU Medical School. She is a wife to her wonderful and supportive husband, Tim, and mother to their four beautiful children, Jesse 14, Caleb 10, Stella 4 and Emery 3. You can follow Dr. Redman on Twitter @DrLeanneRedman.


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