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Holiday Eating Tips That Last the Whole Year Long!

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

holiday eating tips

Willpower at one meal is great, but following a few simple holiday eating tips before, during, and after any occasion is the best way to avoid weight gain — and keep the weight off.

Doing so can help you avoid eating because of boredom, eating the wrong foods, and getting too little physical activity.

Eating healthy during any holiday season — or any other time of the year — is simple with the right tools, guidance, and education in place.

Start by making a few small lifestyle changes, one at a time, to increase your chance of long-term success.

Try the following healthy holiday eating tips to improve your overall health and wellness now and all year long!

Already drop some pounds and want to keep them off? Check out these weight loss maintenance tips!

Holiday Eating Tips

Keep a Water Bottle With You

Making sure you're drinking enough water is the best way to avoid overeating at mealtime.

Keep a water bottle with you all throughout the day and drink as often as you can!

Men often need at least 16 cups of water daily.

You might need more or less than this, depending on your body size and the amount of water you lose through sweating.

To eat less at mealtime, try drinking at least 2 cups of water before each meal.

Consume 2-4 cups of water when you wake up each morning too!

To ensure you stay properly hydrated, check the color of your urine.

If it's clear or light yellow in color, chances are you're drinking enough fluids.

If it's bright or dark yellow, bump up your fluid intake.

Check out these quick tips and targets for you to hit your daily hydration levels.

Write Down What You Eat

Writing down, or recording in an app, what you eat is a good way to control your food intake — even if you don't count calories.

Studies show that self-monitoring, including keeping a food journal, is an effective weight loss strategy.

Recording what you eat often makes you more aware of the volume of food you're eating.

Subconsciously, you may eat less food after seeing what you eat in writing.

Record your calorie intake too if you'd like, but at a minimum write down the type and quantity of food you're eating throughout each day.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol is a popular holiday tradition, but be aware of the quantity you're drinking to avoid undesirable holiday weight gain.

If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

This equates to consuming two drinks or less per day for men, and one drink or less daily for women.

Eggnog, a common holiday drink, often contains more than 200 calories in each serving.

While you don't have to nix alcohol entirely (though if you're able to that's great!), limit it as much as you can.

Find out how to eat healthy during holidays or any regular weekend and stick to your nutrition goals!

Weigh Yourself Every Day

Daily weigh-ins make it easier to avoid packing on unwanted pounds.

In fact, studies show that weighing yourself daily aids in weight loss and helps you keep the weight off long term.

Doing so helps you become aware of slow, gradual weight gain that can occur over time.

Weigh yourself at the same time each day to achieve the most accurate results.

If you notice gradual weight gain, make simple changes in your daily diet and exercise habits.

Eat fewer calories, drink more water, or increase the number of calories you burn throughout the day.

Eat Low-Calorie Foods First

When healthy weight management is your goal, one of the best holiday eating tips this season is to eat low-calorie foods before higher-calorie options.

After drinking water, consume non-starchy vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, leafy greens, green beans, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, or bell peppers plus nutritious protein foods.

Examples include grilled chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, eggs, and very lean cuts of organic red meat.

Finally, consume fiber-rich starches (whole grains, dried beans, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, etc.) and healthy fats.

Examples include nuts, seeds, nut butter, olives, hummus, and avocados.

Cook holiday recipes with olive oil or other plant-based oils, and top leafy greens with oil-based salad dressings.

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Portion Your Foods Properly

An excellent way to abide by effective holiday eating tips is to portion each plate of food properly.

Aim to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with protein foods, and one-fourth of your plate with fiber-rich starches.

Make sure each meal contains a healthy fat as well.

Add in three servings of dairy foods (or calcium-rich dairy alternatives) daily plus 1-2 cups of fruit per day.

Add Protein Powder to Recipes

One of the best ways to boost satiety, better control your calorie intake, increase metabolism, and maintain lean muscle mass is to consume plenty of protein.

Consider adding protein powder to some of your favorite holiday recipes.

Examples include shakes, smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, protein bars, desserts, muffins, protein balls, and more!

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Eat Meals Slowly

Eat your meals slowly this holiday season to avoid overeating at mealtime.

Take your time, take breaks while eating, and allow yourself plenty of time to slowly chew your food.

It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you feel full, so make sure to plan enough time for this process to occur!

In other words, don't eat while in a hurry!

Use Smaller Plates

Try a slightly different healthy eating strategy when abiding by holiday eating tips this season.

Use smaller plate sizes at mealtime.

Eat only what you can fit on your plate to control calories and avoid unwanted weight gain.

Eat every few hours to avoid extreme hunger and subsequent binge eating!

Avoid Going Back for Seconds

A popular habit during holiday mealtimes is going back for second helpings, but doing so can increase your chance of overeating.

Get seconds if the foods you choose are low in calories, such as salads, vegetables, or lean protein foods.

Steer clear of going back for seconds for high-sugar or refined, high-carb foods whenever possible.

Choose Healthy Desserts

A simple holiday eating tip to consider this season is to pass on traditional pies, cookies, ice cream, and other sweet treats if you can!

Choose crustless pumpkin pie instead of traditional pumpkin pie, apples with peanut butter instead of apple pie, frozen yogurt or avocado ice cream instead of regular ice cream, protein balls or protein bars instead of cookies, or other guilt-free healthy dessert recipes!

Doing so often means you can satisfy your sweet tooth without packing on unwanted pounds.

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Eat Small Meals Every Few Hours

Fasting is often an effective weight loss strategy, but feeling overly hungry can put you at risk of overeating during your next meal.

Instead, eat smaller meals or snacks every few hours.

Aim for three meals plus two to three snacks daily, or five to six small meals throughout each day!

Stick with the same meal plan during holiday gatherings if you can.

Don't Eat While Distracted

When you're distracted or trying to multitask while eating food, it's easy to eat more than you'd like.

To avoid eating while distracted, don't eat and watch television at the same time.

Avoid cooking and eating at the same time, and focus on your body's satiety cues if you're talking with friends or family members during mealtime.

Make sure to eat slowly, and stop eating at the first sign of satiety.

Focus on Getting Enough Sleep

Getting plenty of sleep is crucial to control your appetite and reduce the risk of overeating.

Sleep deprivation can affect hunger hormones, increasing food cravings and your overall appetite.

Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night by sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet room, setting a regular bedtime, and establishing a regular bedtime routine.

Use a white noise machine to block out loud sounds, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, avoid going to bed hungry or too full, and keep stress levels low.

Learn why the Circadian Rhythm and production of sleep hormones are vital parts of getting better sleep.

Keep Moving Throughout the Day

Keep your body moving all throughout the day to avoid unwanted holiday weight gain this season.

In addition to scheduling in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and abiding by holiday eating tips, move your body all day long if you can!

Take your dog for a walk, get outside to play sports games with your kids, help with food prep or doing the dishes, clean the house, or put up Christmas lights outside.

Avoid sitting down for longer than an hour or two.

Go walking, climb stairs, shovel snow, or try other activities that keep your body moving.

Even standing up instead of sitting down during holiday gatherings can help you burn extra calories.

Focus on Fiber and Protein

Eating foods rich in fiber, protein, or both can boost satiety and help you feel full from fewer calories.

Examples of fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.

Healthy high-protein foods to consider include chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, lean beef, eggs, tofu, setein, beans, peas, other legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Additional protein-rich options include cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, cow's milk or plant milk, protein bars, and protein shakes.

Find out how much protein you really need and calculate your daily protein intake!

Avoid Socializing by the Food

A common holiday tradition is socializing near the food and drinks.

But doing so can make you feel tempted to graze all throughout the day.

Seeing and smelling food often stimulates your appetite.

So if calorie control is your goal, socialize away from the food whenever possible.

Stick to Your Meal Plan

If you normally follow a healthy meal plan, stick to it as much as you can during the holidays.

For example, if you're used to eating three meals and two snacks every day, stick with the same plan at holiday gatherings.

The Fit Father Project offers custom meal plans for weight loss, muscle gains, fat loss, and more to help you reach your personalized goals.

Don't veer off track just because it's the holidays.

Find ways to eat healthy foods, regardless of where you're at!

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Consider Healthy Cooking Swaps

When preparing festive recipes this holiday season, consider healthy cooking swaps to optimize your health and wellness!

Make small changes whenever you can. Examples include:

  • Use vegetable oil, soft margarine, or unsweetened applesauce instead of butter
  • Use sugar substitutes instead of regular sugar
  • Try low-fat or nonfat milk instead of heavy cream or whole milk
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour a recipe calls for
  • Substitute dried fruit or nuts for chocolate chips
  • Replace sugar with vanilla, peppermint, or almond extract
  • Consider whole-grain breads, brown rice, or whole-grain pasta instead of refined grains
  • Grill, steam, or bake foods instead of frying them
  • Choose ingredients low in sodium and added sugars
  • Flavor foods with fresh herbs, spices, or citrus juices instead of sugar or excess salt
  • Replace one egg with two egg whites
  • Replace regular cheese with reduced-fat cheese

In addition to making healthy holiday recipe swaps, choose water, 100% fruit juice, milk, plant milk, or protein shakes instead of soda, lemonade, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks.

Eat Before You Attend Holiday Gatherings

Avoid going to holiday gatherings extremely hungry.

Instead have a healthy, light snack (fruit, vegetables, yogurt, a protein shake or bar, nuts, seeds, etc.) before you go.

You can still eat a snack, appetizer, or small plate of food at parties while reducing the risk of binging and overeating.

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Bring a Healthy Side Dish

If you're planning to attend a holiday gathering with friends or family, bring a healthy side dish to pass around!

Doing so is a guarantee you'll have healthy eating options, regardless of who prepares the rest of the food.

Consider bringing a veggie tray, fruit salad, leafy green salad, healthy appetizer rich in protein (such as shrimp), or other nutritious hors d'oeuvres.

Eat the healthy dish you bring first (before consuming higher-calorie options) to better control your overall calorie intake.

To learn more about holiday eating tips or gain motivational support from health experts, consider joining the Fit Father Project healthy living program for men.

Or, try a free meal plan and workout today! Doing so increases your chance of getting and staying healthy for life!

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Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on holiday eating tips.

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