Making Healthy Choices at These 5 Tempting Holiday Hot-Spots


Pick an indulgence and go light on other holiday fare! Credit: Dano, Flickr

I just got home from my daughter’s preschool Christmas story performance. In addition to the adorable Mary and Joseph and manger scene (I was the proud parent of a cow), there was a spread afterward of every treat imaginable. Cookies, brownies, Dunkin munchkins. I had to hold myself back and be content to split a cookie with my son. I, of course, got the bigger half. But holiday temptations are everywhere, and it can be easy to go overboard and indulge just because it’s there.

These tips from TOPS Club (Take Off Pounds Sensibly, a nonprofit weight-loss support organization) can help you hit the party circuit without needing to crank your belt a few notches looser. Yvonne Greer, MPH, RD, CD, nutritional expert for TOPS, recommends taking a look at how much sugar you’re already eating each day. Then decide how many more calories you’re comfortable adding. Perhaps plan to indulge only once or twice a week during the season, not daily. Next, create a list of healthy treats that you can make or enjoy while you’re out. At the beginning of each week, decide when, where, and how you’ll indulge in extra sugar. Planning what you will eat can help you face down temptation and succeed.

You can still enjoy your favorite holiday treats in moderation, but you do need to make wise choices most of the time. The following tips will help you keep your sugar intake under control at all of the venues you’ll hit this holiday season.

Your Game Plan For 5 Holiday Hot-Spots

1. The office potluck. Bring a tasty, low-calorie treat to pass, so you know there will be a dessert you can enjoy. Eat one holiday treat as a dessert or snack — not multiple ones in place of a well-balanced meal. Plus, don’t keep leftover candy or other sweets on your desk. Make yourself get up and walk to grab a treat.

2. The holiday party. Work the room, staying far away from the food table to avoid the temptation to munch. Limit hors d’oeuvres to no more than three, but choose the ones you like best. Pass up high-calorie desserts, like cheesecake. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. If the party does not include healthy options, plan to have something good for you waiting at home.

3. The shop-till-you-drop outing. Even if you eat ahead of time, pack water and healthy snacks to take with you, making sure to have a combination of whole grains and protein, like wheat crackers and peanut butter, which will help you stay full longer. Instead of falling for high-calorie beverages at the coffee shop, experiment with making your own lower-calorie version using low-fat milk, cinnamon, honey, mint extract and cocoa.

4. The all-night gift-wrapping session. Take a nap before you start wrapping. That way you won’t need a large cup of coffee to stay awake. In case you suddenly feel hungry, have something healthy on hand, like a low-fat cheese stick with fresh fruit. Invite a friend over to help wrap and keep you distracted from eating by sharing fun holiday stories.

5. The family feast. If you host, develop a menu with a limited number of items, so you won’t overeat by simply trying one of everything. Share the menu with family ahead of time, and let them know they don’t have to bring more food. Also, people often want to “clean” their plates, no matter how full they feel. Help them by putting out smaller bowls, plates and glasses. Make only enough dessert for your guests to each have a moderate portion. If you want to enjoy a small piece of your favorite dessert, skip a dinner roll or sweetened beverage.

Do you make any swaps to enjoy certain special holiday treats? What’s your one “must-have” during the holidays? —Erin


  1. Suzannah says

    Great tips! I always try to have a glass of water before I go to a holiday party, have a big holiday feast, and bring water and a healthy snack with me on outings. This way I make sure that I am hungry (vs thirsty) and am not starving when it is time to eat. This keeps me going too!!

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