The holidays are here, and most likely a lot is on your plate — no pun intended. Between the stress of inviting family and friends into your home, checking off the shopping list, long grocery store lines, and planning the perfect menu, who has time to watch what your diet, right? Wrong!

The holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year, but they also can be the most fun and exciting of times. This holiday season, instead of stressing out over food, keep your own health and well-being in mind.

I always tell my clients to never restrict yourself or tell yourself that you can’t have certain foods. It is all about moderation. If you love having pie for Thanksgiving, have a piece of pie, but just one slice! Following the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics portion guide MyPlate is a useful tool to have in mind when preparing for Thanksgiving Day.

A few tips I would suggest for your holiday plate is:

  • Load up your plate with lots of color, especially from fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t forget your protein too. Try the white meat of the turkey instead of the dark meat. It has fewer calories and less saturated fat.
  • Make a cauliflower mashed potato or a baked sweet potato as an alternative to regular mashed potatoes. Find a healthy homemade stuffing recipe and start a new tradition. By making your own, you can cut back on almost half of the sodium content found in boxed stuffing.
  • Enjoy bread in moderation. You don’t want to spoil your appetite before your favorite foods are ready.
  • Eat slowly. It is nice to eat slowly because you enjoy the meal that took hours to prepare, and it can help you realize when you are getting full.
  • Keep the servings away from the head table. If you have a large group of visitors joining you for the day, serve the food away from the table. This way, if you want seconds, you have to get up and serve yourself.
  • Be creative-with so many social media outlets, such as Pinterest, it is not difficult to be creative with food. Instead of serving so many pies, pastries, and candies for dessert, try a festive fruit platter designed to look like a turkey or pumpkin.
  • If you absolutely can’t do Thanksgiving without the infamous piece of pie, opt for a slice of pumpkin over apple or pecan pie. Pumpkin pie has the least amount of fat and calories.
  • While it would be best to get out and be active, for  members of the family or friends who can’t miss the Fall football lineup, healthier snack ideas to offer are unsalted nuts, vegetables and hummus or apples and peanut butter.
  • After dinner, head outside and enjoy some fresh air. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, play a family game of football.  Whatever you decide to do, some activity will help with digestion and help make up for the generous portions you may have just consumed.

So remember when you are getting ready to sit down with friends or family this holiday season, keep a healthy plate and moderation in mind.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season!

About the Author:

Jessica Cicalese, RD, is a dietitian for Aramark Dining Services at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, who focuses on promoting healthy eating and wellness education in an academic setting. She oversees all aspects of nutrition for USF Dining, from food allergy labeling and preventing cross-contamination, to ensuring healthy options for students with special dietary needs.

Ms. Cicalese received her clinical and food service management training at WakeMed Hospital in Cary, NC, at several assisted living facilities and through the Pinellas County Health Department.  As a certified Zumba instructor at Seriously Fun Fitness Studio in St. Petersburg, Fla., Ms. Cicalese strives to guide individuals toward a lifestyle of overall better health and well-being.  

Jessica Cicalese may be contacted at: [email protected]

Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect the views of the OAC, the National Board of Directors or staff. The OAC does not endorse any merchandise, program or hyperlinks mentioned in this blog post.