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8 Tips to Eat Well and Stay Fit Over the Holidays

With the holidays in full swing and a New Year only days away, many unfortunately put nutritious eating and being active to the sidelines only to go to extremes once January 1st hits.

To help you get into a more mindful and healthier mindset during the holidays and beyond, here are eight tips from some top food and nutrition experts.

Get Cooking.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but it takes less time for me to whip up a healthy dinner than to spend time eating out. Also, with so many parties and celebrations filled with tempting, higher calorie food choices, I save my calorie budget for those occasions rather than for dining out when it’s unnecessary, ” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN.

Bring Your Own Food.

“When I go to parties I bring healthier fare that I like to eat as well so I have a backup if the buffet is lacking,” says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD. Similarly, Regan Jones, RD, Editor-in-Chief at and a mother of two, always makes sure to take a dish her entire family likes (usually something fruit-based) to family gatherings.

Partner with Produce

“At parties, I stand by the veggie tray or fruit tray and fill up on those first—this helps me meet my veggie and fruit quotas for the day and leaves less room in my stomach for too much higher calorie fare,” says Giancoli.

Surrender to the Skimpy Plate

For Jones, a lot of the stress of the holidays surrounds how much (or how little) her kids eat during family gatherings, especially when everyone seems to be watching. “I tame this by surrendering to what I call the ‘skimpy plate’— I know if my kids only eat a little at Christmas dinner, they’ll likely make up for it at the next meal.”

Make Time for Tea

“I’m a tea drinker year-round, but I find at holiday time tea is especially helpful for encouraging more mindfulness around eating as well as creating quiet moments to sit and be grateful,” says Willow Jarosh, MS, RD, CDN, co-author of the upcoming Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook. She adds, “I start the morning with a cup of green tea and sip herbal tea in the afternoon and evening. I’ve realized that if I have a cup of warm tea with my dessert after dinner, I need a lot less dessert to feel satisfied.“ Jarosh also says that besides helping her hydrate, sipping on tea helps her slow down and catch up with family and friends.

Schedule Exercise

According to Harris-Pincus, exercise is not only important for physical health, but it’s a critical stress reliever and a key component in keeping your immune system strong at a time of year when it’s pretty easy to get sick. She suggests scheduling exercise appointments in your calendar. “That way, you can’t use lack of time as an excuse,” she says. Similarly, Jones thinks of fitness as a non-negotiable part of her holiday. “Very seldom in the year do I have as many chances to enjoy so much delicious (and high calorie food), so I want to enjoy the experience. But I know that a daily walk or run is a must to keep me feeling energized and not overfed,” she says.

Move as a Group

Jarosh suggests planning group activities each day as a way to meld being active with spending time with loved ones. She says, “Being active helps me feel better mentally and physically, which can be especially important during the holidays when it can be tempting to get caught up in indoor activities and chores.” To stay active each day, she hits the tennis court with her father or anyone else who’s home. She also plays pickle ball with her parents. “We also make walking around the neighborhood to look at lights on Christmas Eve and a Christmas Day hike part of our yearly routine,” she adds.

Get Your Zs

According to Harris-Pincus, it’s essential to make sleep a priority when you’re busy, especially during the holidays. “Not only does lack of sleep make us cranky, but in many cases sleep deprivation makes us hangry. Our bodies often confuse signals for hunger, thirst and fatigue. Hence, we are often more likely to give in to the office candy bowl or pastry platter when we don’t sleep enough.”

Image via Willow Jarosh.

How do you eat well and stay fit over the holidays?




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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

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