Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007. 

The holidays are a great time to bring out traditional family recipes and enjoy special foods and treats. The holidays are also a time when stress about healthy eating and fear of weight gain may occur.

Put your mind at ease and avoid overindulging with these helpful hints.

6 eating strategies to try

1. Before you head to a holiday party or gathering, eat a small, high-fiber snack. This could be something such as a handful of raw veggies, an apple with the peel on, or a handful of high-fiber crackers. The fiber in the snack will start to make you feel full. If you feel satisfied going into a party, you’ll most likely end up eating a smaller amount of party food.

2. Use a salad plate as opposed to a full dinner plate. This strategy will cause you to take smaller portions of those high-calorie holiday foods. Savor the foods slowly to allow your body to tell your brain that you are full before you head back for seconds.

3. When preparing your own holiday favorites, look for ways to cut fat and sugar or add fiber. If a recipe calls for ½ cup of butter, try ¼ cup butter and ¼ cup applesauce. If it calls for one cup of sugar, try the recipe with 2/3 cup of sugar, or try a sugar and stevia blend. Use whole-wheat flour in combination with all-purpose flour to add fiber to baked goods, or toss a ¼ cup of ground flaxseed into the recipe.

4. Be mindful of what you are eating during your days. Are you incorporating healthy food (fruits, veggies, fiber, lean protein, water) into your day along with the holiday treats? Are you balancing calorie and carbohydrate intake across your day? Are you creating a healthy work/home environment during the holidays?

5. Establish a set of food trade-offs to get you through the holidays and beyond. With food trade-offs, you don’t have to deny yourself the foods you love. You simply enact a healthy behavior in addition to eating the food. For example: if you have a handful of holiday candies at work, take the stairs instead of elevator all day that day. If you know you’ll be having pumpkin pie for dessert at dinner, skip the chips and soda with your sandwich at lunch. If you have a cinnamon roll for breakfast, skip the starch with lunch.

6. Create your own food policies to use during the holidays and all year long. A food policy is a personal rule that you are always able to follow. For example: never eat in front of the TV, don’t snack on anything that comes in a wrapper, don't have soda on weekdays, have dessert only once a week, etc. Make your food policies realistic, and target bad habits you can easily overcome. (An excellent resource for learning more about food policies and food trade-offs is a book called Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays.)

To learn more about this topic:

Holiday Eating Strategies Part 1
Holiday Recipe Guide