Holiday Eating Guide: 5 Tips to Avoid the Extra 5 Pounds

by Elizabeth Ortega, MD 2011 | ortega@myhousecallmd.com

The holidays are here, bringing family feasts, festive baked goods, toasty foam-topped beverages and tantalizing cocktails.  Throw 3 feet of snow in the mix along with sub-zero temperatures and you have the perfect storm for holiday weight gain.  The House Call, MD team has put together 5 tips to help you make it through December without picking up any extra holiday weight.  This way, you can have your holiday bundt cake and eat it too!

1. Fresh

Your body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to function. The better the quality of the food you eat, the more nutrients you are getting and (ideally) the fewer calories you need to consume to get your daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. Fresh foods contain more nutrients, and typically less calories than their processed counterparts.

  • Avoid processed foods: Boxed items have lots of extra fat, sugar and salt, and typically have fewer vitamins and minerals.
  • Choose fresh foods: Fresh foods have more nutrients and are typically lower in calories than processed items. They provide the fuel we need to keep running during the holidays.


That being said, here are some examples of foods you might see around the holidays and the number of calories found in each of them. Keep in mind this varies by recipe and depends on the different ingredients that are used. For example, you can prepare fresh green beans for dinner instead of the classic green bean casserole, which loses its nutritional value with the addition of a can of cream of mushroom soup and fried onions!

  • Fudge (1 cubic inch)  90 calories
  • Pumpkin pie (1 slice; 1/8 of 9 inch pie)  323 calories
  • Pecan pie (1 slice; 1/8 of 9 inch pie)  456 calories
  • Stuffing (1 cup)  352 calories
  • Mashed potatoes (1 cup)  210 calories
  • Cooked green beans (1 cup)  83 calories
  • Green bean casserole (1 cup)  165 calories

2. Portions

One relatively easy way to cut down on what you are eating is to control the amount of food you eat. The simplest way is to start with a smaller plate. Smaller plate= less food. For a well balanced meal vegetables should take up half the plate, carbohydrates a quarter and protein the last quarter.

Also, look at all of your food options before you start stacking your plate! Find the foods that you want the most and eat those instead of simply eating everything (you can only fit so much on one plate anyway). Last, but definitely not least, limit how many times you refill your plate. Remember to enjoy what’s on your plate and the company of your family (as much as possible) instead of thinking about what else you can eat. It’s important to get enough food but don’t overstuff yourself by going back a third and fourth time. Try eating slowly to give your body time to realize it’s full.

3. Hydrate

A lot of the time when we think we’re hungry we are actually just thirsty. Yes, this is a bit of a design flaw in the human model. Knowing this, it’s important to remain adequately hydrated. Drink mostly water and try to limit sugary drinks like fruit juice and soda. Drinking water will reduce hunger and might even save you from a holiday hangover!

4. Exercise

With lots of eating its important we exercise. Make it easy around the holidays by going on walks with family members. This will get you out of the house where all the snack foods are and increase your metabolism. Your body burns calories while exercise, but vigorous exercise (where you are to speak, but not sing) or strength training help keep your body burning calories even hours after you finish exercising!

5. Balance

Try to maintain balance both in your life and in your diet. There’s already so much to do during the holidays (trim the tree, clean the house, make the family feast) and it’s easy to lose track of your natural balance. Don’t let the holiday chaos spill over into your eating habits.  Take care of yourself by eating consistently (including a healthy breakfast!) and balancing each meal with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Each of these nutrients provides you energy to get through your holiday shopping and family gatherings. When you balance your meals, you feel full for a longer period of time and avoid a sharp decrease in your blood sugar, which can make you give in to holiday treats!

Enjoy your holiday!

The most important part of the holiday is to enjoy yourself! Use this guide to help you make healthy choices but also remember to spend time with your family and relax so you are ready for the New Year. It’s great if you can walk away from the dinner table feeling satisfied and not as though you are about to burst. At the same time, don’t walk away regretting that you did not have a bite of pumpkin pie or Aunt Mary’s famous homemade cranberry sauce.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Questions? E-mail the author: ortega@myhousecallmd.com

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References:

1. Calories counts determined via: www.mypyramidtracker.gov

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