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Healthy Eating

Healthy Holiday Eating

Food is an important part of many holiday celebrations with family and friends. The foods served at these times can be higher in calories, fat, and/or sugar. It is also easy to overeat when there is a lot of food around. As a result, people may gain weight over the holidays.

With a little planning, you can make healthy food choices and still enjoy holiday celebrations.

Holiday eating tips:

Limit appetizers 
It is easy to eat a full meal's worth of calories from appetizers alone. For example, 2 chicken wings, 2 sausage rolls, and 1 mini quiche have the same calories as a healthy meal. Choose a few items that you enjoy, and leave the rest. Visit with friends away from the appetizer or food table.  Drink water or chew gum to help avoid mindless eating.

Re-think your drink
To limit the calories from drinks:

  • choose black coffee, tea or herbal tea (with or without 2%, 1% or skim milk)
  • use flavoured coffee beans instead of adding flavoured coffee creamers
  • try a light beer or wine spritzer (½ white wine and ½ club soda)
  • mix an alcoholic drink with diet pop
  • Add extra flavours to water without extra calories by infusing (adding) water with cucumber slices, cranberries, sliced oranges or other fruit.

Many holiday drinks are high in sugar and calories. Limit these drinks:

  • eggnog: 1 cup (250 mL) has about 235 - 350 calories and about 6 tsp (30mL) of sugar
  • hot chocolate: 1 cup (250 mL) has about 150 - 250 calories and about 5 tsp (25mL) of sugar
  • pop, iced tea or fruit punch: 1 cup (250 mL) has about 90 - 120 calories and about 6 tsp (30mL) of sugar
  • wine: 5 oz (150 mL) has about 100 calories
  • Liquor:  11/2 oz (45mL) has about 100-150 calories
  • beer: a 12 oz (341mL) bottle has about 100-150 calories
  • wine or vodka cooler: 12oz (341mL) bottle has about 175-210 calories and about 4-6 tsp (20-30mL) of sugar
  • liqueur: 11/2 oz (45mL) has about 150 calories and 2-3 tsp(10-15mL) of sugar

Build a healthy plate
You can enjoy holidayfoods without giving up healthy eating. Try to build a healthy plate even at a party. Start with a smaller plate, if possible, to help you keep your portions smaller.

  • Fill at least ½ of your plate with vegetables and fruit. They are high in fibre so they keep you full longer. They are also lower in calories.
  • Fill ¼ of your plate with grains. Choose whole grains more often (for example, brown rice, whole wheat pasta).
  • Fill ¼ of your plate with meat or alternatives. Make healthy choices such as fish, lean cuts of meat, or meat alternatives (beans, lentils or tofu).

This is what a healthy plate looks like:


If you have a large plate, fill only the middle area

Practice saying “No, thank-you”
You might feel pressure to eat food that the host has prepared. Learn to say “no, thank you, I’m full” when someone invites you to eat more. Keep some food on your plate and keep your glass half full to avoid pressure to eat and drink more. Instead of a second drink of alcohol or punch, refill your glass with water or club soda.

Bring along healthy options
Offer to bring dishes that have less added fat and less added sugar to parties. If you bring dessert, try a fruit tray. Your host and guests may welcome some healthy options.

Take charge in the kitchen
Do yourself and your guests a favour by making a few healthy changes when preparing foods by:

  • cut back on the number of dishes you serve
  • reducing the fat, salt, and sugar in your favourite and new recipes
  • choose healthier cooking methods, such as baking and grilling with little or no added fat
  • making enough to last the holiday not longer
Offer your guests tasty snacks that are healthy:
  • open-faced mini sandwiches on whole grain bread
  • peeled, unbreaded shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • reduced fat cheese and whole grain crackers
  • vegetables and dips such as hummus or tzatziki
  • a fruit platter
  • baked whole grain tortilla or pita chips with salsa

Use leftovers 
Sometimes you end up with extra food after a party. Offer your guests a plate of food to take home for a meal or snack the next day.  Party foods make great meals the day after:

  • use leftover turkey in sandwiches with whole grain bread, tomato, and spinach
  • add leftover raw or cooked vegetables to spaghetti sauce or soup
  • combine extra cut-up fruit in low fat yogurt and high fibre cereal

Carry on with active living

  • Stay active over the holidays. Try to do some kind of physical activity every day.
  • Get your family active after a meal or snack. Take a walk, play in the park, ride a bike, or go ice skating.
  • Even if you can do only 10 minutes at a time, it still counts towards the 150 minutes you need each week!

Keep in mind…

  • Focus on the party or event rather than the food.
  • Start a journal to keep track of your eating and activity during the holidays.
  • The best plan is to eat healthy and be active all year long.

Current as of: December 10, 2018

Author: Nutrition Services, Alberta Health Services