A how-to-guide to healthy holidays
Connecting the dots…nutrition simplified

Worried about straying from your healthy ways this holiday season? Well, you need a better plan than just hoping for the best. And depriving yourself of all your favorite goodies isn’t the way to go either; it usually backfires and leads to overeating. Instead, have smart strategies for healthful holiday eating — at home, at work and at parties.

At home
Strategy to: Lighten the menu
Start with lean meat, poultry or fish for the center of the plate. One serving is about the size of a deck of cards. Small changes, such as removing the skin from turkey and choosing white meat over dark meat, can cut as much as 10 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving. Balance traditional side dishes, such as cheesy potatoes and creamy green bean casserole, with lower-fat options like oven-roasted sweet potatoes and steamed veggies seasoned with lemon pepper. Hmm, there is a way to eat delicious and healthy, too!

Strategy to: Get a move on
Offset extra holiday calories with exercise. A brisk walk burns about 258 calories per hour and allows time to clear your head and reduce stress. Opt for a bike ride and boost your calorie burn to 408 calories per hour.

At work
Strategy to:
Avoid the pitfalls of the office “buffet”
It’s not uncommon for the typical office to resemble an all-you-can-eat buffet during the holidays. Candy, cookies, quick breads and pastries start pushing paperwork out of the way as they claim counter space. What to do? Limit yourself to a couple of small snacks each day; don’t get caught up grazing all day long. And choose wisely. Enjoying one pre-portioned chocolate drop is better than cutting yourself an extra-large slice of fat-laden pumpkin bread.

Strategy to:
Navigate office potlucks with ease
Begin by bringing a healthy dish. Then find out who else brought one, too. Fill half your plate with better-for-you choices like lean meats or fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fill in with small spoonfuls of “splurge” foods. Anything with full-fat creamy dressing, cheese sauce, sour cream or mayonnaise is best kept to a minimum. Cut a two-bite serving of dessert or share a regular-size portion with a couple of co-workers.

At parties
Strategy to:
Focus on the reason for the season
It’s easy to get distracted by all the food at holiday gatherings and lose sight of the true meaning of the season. So, when you’re tempted to return to the buffet table, instead enjoy the festive music, talk to someone you haven’t seen in a while or burn a few calories dancing.

Strategy to:
Think twice about second helpings
Thinking about an extra spoonful of mashed potatoes or an additional cookie? Think again. Those extra helpings add up. A two-thirds cup serving of stuffing has about 235 calories and 11 grams of fat. A single serving could have a place in a healthy meal, but not so with a second helping that would bring your stuffing tally to nearly 500 calories and 25 grams of fat. If you’re still hungry after a single serving, munch on raw veggies with low-fat dip or fresh fruit. They’re healthy choices that are high in fiber and will help fill you up.

Before resolutions try pre-solutions!
Why not get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution by trying pre-solutions for healthier holiday eating?  Here’s how:
Pre-solution: Eat mindfully

  • Enjoy what you eat!  Most of the traditional holiday meals are only served once a year.  Whether you’re at a party or at home, take one small portion, eat slowly and savor every bite.  Become satisfied by how a food tastes instead of the quantity you eat.
  • Avoid post-dinner nibbles that can rack up calories. You might not even be hungry or realize you’re eating. It’s best to remove your plate when you’ve finished your meal.
  • Stop eating when you feel comfortably full – not when you feel like you’re about to burst.

Pre-solution: Focus on veggies

  • Vegetables are low in calories and packed with good-for-you nutrition.  Create lighter versions of classic vegetable dishes that are loaded with butter, cream and/or sugar by substituting with healthier alternatives:

Instead of sour cream in mashed potatoes try low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt.

  • Instead of cooking Brussels sprouts in butter try roasting in 1-2 tsp of olive oil.
  • Instead of brown sugar and marshmallows in candied yams try whipping yams with 1 tbsp. maple syrup and the zest and juice of one orange.
  • Check out www.shoprite/ for healthy holiday vegetable dishes.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • Roasted mushrooms with winter vegetables
  • Roasted butternut squash
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, pears, cranberries, and walnuts
  • Cauliflower and broccoli gratin with goat cheese

Pre-solution: Find balance with exercise

  • Avoid the “I’ll work that off later” mentality. The reality is that a typical 30-minute walk on the treadmill burns about 130 calories, about the same amount of calories in a dinner roll.  Instead, find a balance between incorporating a few days of activity into your weekly routine and enjoying holiday foods in moderation.

Don’t forget about the leftovers
The best part about a holiday meal comes the next day. Yes, we’re talking about leftovers, the cook’s best friend! Since part of the cooking is already done, you can use leftover ham or turkey to create healthy, quick-and-easy entrées in minutes.  In fact, many people buy an extra-large turkey or ham just so they can put dinner on the table quickly later in the week.

Leftover ham
Ham makes a savory addition to a variety of dishes:

  • Add chopped ham to a hearty bean soup.
  • Mix cubed ham into a frittata made with fat-free liquid eggs and assorted veggies.
  • Top ham slices with pineapple salsa and bake until hot for a flavorsome five-minute entrée.
  • Serve baked potatoes with a dollop of fat-free sour cream, grated low-fat Cheddar cheese and chopped ham.

Leftover turkey
Turkey is a great source of lean protein and a versatile food that works in soups, salads, casseroles and more.

  • For a savory and filling whole-grain salad, mix leftover turkey, cooked brown or wild rice, chopped roasted red bell peppers, chopped green onions, sliced kalamata olives, reduced-fat herb and garlic flavored feta cheese and reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette.  Serve as a side dish or stuffed in a large ripe tomato.
  • Add cooked leftover turkey to stir-fried veggies and serve with brown rice.
  • Toss chopped turkey, toasted sliced almonds, chopped apples or pears, dried cranberries and fresh spinach leaves or salad greens and dress with a Dijon-style vinaigrette.
  • Give turkey soup a gourmet touch by using wild rice or barley, onions, carrots, celery and a mix of wild mushrooms.

For more healthy eating tips and recipe ideas, visit or visit your in-store dietitian to help you put a plan in place.   

ShopRite of Niskayuna- Sarah Ender MS, RD- 491.0050

ShopRite of Albany- Adrian Allen RD – 708.3445

ShopRite of Colonie- Amy Imler RD- 598.4970

ShopRite of Slingerlands- Kristin Caponera RD- 708.7815

Sarada Bernstein MPH, RD is a Corporate Dietitian for ShopRite Supermarkets.


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