Preparing for a Healthy Holiday: How to Stick to a Healthy Diet

The holiday season can be a time full of family and friends, and a time abundant with sweet treats. Over-indulgence is common during this time of year, but there are ways to enjoy the holidays, including the food, while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It helps to take the focus of the holidays off of food and instead focus on the time you get to spend celebrating with family and friends.

During the holidays, there are many opportunities to indulge in a special treat. While it’s good to appreciate that part of the season, it doesn’t mean you have to overeat. To help set yourself up for success, try to follow some of these practices:

  • Keep yourself accountable – Recognize your weaknesses and plan on how to overcome them. If you love chips, try to look for a whole grain cracker instead or get something crunchy from a veggie tray.
  • Be picky – You don’t have to eat everything at each gathering. Look for the things you like the most and the healthier options when you can. Pick homemade items instead of processed foods and look for whole grains.
  • Bring a healthy option – When you have the chance, bring a healthier side dish or appetizer to share.
  • Start with small portions – Fill your plate with small amounts and go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. If you’re eating dip, put a spoonful of dip on your plate and when it’s done, it’s done. If you’re eating out, plan to bring home enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Eat slowly – Savor the food you’re eating.
  • Indulge a little – You don’t need to deprive yourself of all good things, but instead plan to have 1 dessert or sweet at the party. Pick out a regular slice of cake, 1 brownie, a half cup of eggnog or a short pour of wine.
  • Plan your meals – If you know you’ll be eating spaghetti for dinner on Tuesday, plan to have salad with it instead of bread and have a lighter meal for lunch.

Pair all of these tips with a normal, healthy diet for your day-to-day meals. Aim to have protein, vegetables and a starch with each meal with fruit for dessert. Keep healthy snacks, like a small serving of nuts or fruit, on hand.

If you know you’ll struggle this year, find an accountability partner to help you through the holidays. A good accountability partner supports you on your journey to wellness – they are not the food police. Check in with each other, remind each other why eating healthy is important to you and help each other plan ahead to avoid common pitfalls. Finally, if you do overeat, don’t feel guilty and don’t give up on eating healthy at your next meal or snack. Think of every day as a fresh start to making healthy choices.

Cone Health understands the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to increase and ensure overall well-being, and has an exceptional team of dietitians, physicians, nurses and other related health care providers dedicated to educating our community on proper nutrition and other lifestyle tips.

Physician Background:

Margaret “Maggie” May is the diabetes coordinator at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services.  May is a registered dietitian, nurse and certified diabetes educator.  She earned a Master of Science in nursing in 1982 and a Master of Science in nutrition in 1998 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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