A lush cheese & charcuterie board with oranges, pistachios, salami and more.

How to Navigate Holiday Gatherings While Keeping Healthy Habits

Jerk Seasoned Chicken Skewers with a garlic & herb dipping sauce.

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We’re excited to have registered dietitian and member of our Advisory Council, Sally Kuzemchak, share a few tips for eating healthy during the holidays! A health and wellness expert, author of the cookbook Dinnertime Survival Guide, and the voice behind Real Mom Nutrition, Sally is known for her great tips on how to maintain a nutritious (and delicious!) lifestyle for on-the-go families.

The holidays can be hard on a healthy diet. There are dinners and parties and delicious food at every turn. I’m all for savoring the season—and I’d never tell you to pass up your mother-in-law’s famous stuffing or give your favorite holiday cookie recipe a makeover! But personally, I know I feel better physically and mentally if I enjoy special foods while still keeping healthy habits in place. After all, you need plenty of energy to get through the crazy sprint from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day!

Here are a few my best tips to keep yourself happy and healthy this holiday season:

Butternut Squash Baby Kale Salad topped with cranberries, sliced almonds and bacon. Image Source

Pick Your Battles: All of that once-a-year stuff—like your sister’s peanut butter fudge, your favorite Fudgy Eggnog Dip or the festive cocktail at your friend’s party? Go for it! It’s okay to celebrate some occasions with special foods, and they’re part of what make the holidays memorable. Besides, saying no to your very favorites may make you feel sad and deprived, which can trigger overeating later. One piece of pie or even one heavy meal doesn’t make or break a healthy diet.

A smart way to make room for these special foods (both in your diet and in your belly!) is to take it easy on the high-calorie, ho-hum buffet items, like cheese cubes, creamy dips and fried apps. Another no-fail tip for holiday parties is to bring a special, healthy dish you love—like a platter of Mango Jalapeño Party Balls or a tasty salad, like this Autumn Kale Salad from ALDI. And if well-meaning friends and relatives try to foist food onto you that you just don’t want, avoid ruffling feathers by saying you don’t have room right now but you’d love to take some home.

All the ingredients you'll need to prepare Green Frittata with Zucchini and Herbs including mixed greens, avocados and extra virgin olive oil.

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Start off Right: I always find that starting off in a healthy way is key during the holidays. On the day of a big party or dinner, aim for breakfast that’s low in sugar and high in protein and fiber for fullness, like eggs and a smoothie loaded with greens (like this ALDI Avocado Smoothie), or mashed avocado on whole grain toast with a dish of Friendly Farms Greek yogurt and fresh berries on the side.

A bottle of Crystal Creek Cellars Riesling next to a charcuterie board filled with pistachios, olives and grapes.

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Sip Smarter: The holidays are full of cocktails, cocoas and festive flavored lattes. The problem is that the body doesn’t seem to register the calories in beverages like it does with food—so you don’t tend to feel full and are more likely to overdo it. And some holiday beverages have as many calories as a small meal (the hot cocoa from one popular chain has 510 calories!). Keep in mind that cream-and milk-based cocktails (like White Russians and Chocolate Martinis) are heavier choices than wine spritzers and even champagne. Enjoy a fun drink or two but alternate them with sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

A healthy lentil salad in a serving dish. Put It In Perspective: Remember that the “holidays” are actually just a few days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. You may have a handful of gatherings during that time, but there are several days in between without buffets and cookie platters. So focus on keeping your usual eating and exercise habits during those times. And don’t be hard on yourself: The holidays are no time to try a restrictive regimen or aim for weight loss. They’re a time to enjoy yourself with friends, family—and yes, good food!

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Sally, health and wellness expert, registered dietitian, freelance writer and the blogger behind Real Mom Nutrition.

Sally is a health and wellness expert, registered dietitian, freelance writer and the blogger behind Real Mom Nutrition. She is passionate about educating others, especially moms, about nourishing their children with wholesome food while still enjoying treats along the way.

Sally’s work has appeared in Shape, Eating Well, Parents Magazine and The Chicago Tribune. In 2014, she partnered with Cooking Light to create a cookbook for busy families, called Dinnertime Survival Guide. Sally resides in Columbus, Ohio, with her family.





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