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Healthy gourmet: Having a healthy holiday season

Healthy Gourmet is a series dedicated to nutritional advice on eating well while keeping fit, especially as a college student. The advice given here is based on nutritional research but is not the advice of a medical professional, and should not be treated as such.

Between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, the next two months are really a time for serious enjoyment of food and family. However, they can also be an issue for people who want to keep healthy—it’s easy to eat as much as twice your normal calories, and the infamous holiday binge can leave you with some unwelcome weight.

However, there is no reason you can’t have a great holiday without feeling the bloating, ‘food coma,’ and post-holiday diet stress. This doesn’t mean ditching the turkey or nixing the eggnog. You can enjoy all your favorite holiday foods with these simple tips and suggestions:

  1. Take yourself back to the original purpose of feast days. Feasts were originally celebrations of prosperity and abundance during periods of scarcity. Eat less in the days leading up to the event. Consider skipping breakfast on the day of the feast. Not only will you appreciate the taste of the food more, you’ll be able to appreciate more of it without feeling full, and the extra calories will be taken care of.
  2. Even if you don’t have an old family recipe, don’t turn to the supermarket, especially for easy staples like stuffing or cranberry sauce; make your own—it’ll taste better and be better for you. Look online or in cookbooks for recipes. If you want delicious and healthy Thanksgiving fare, EatingWell has dozens of great recipes that will fill you up without sticking around:
  3. If you’re not helping make the meal, enjoy the holidays outside. While throwing the football around with your family may seem cliché, exercise is a great way of reducing the impact of a big meal as well as building up your appetite, and if you can’t wait to dig in, it’s a fun way to pass the time.
  4. Drink water with dinner. Apple cider, milk, and other typical beverages enjoyed around the holidays can be an easy way of adding 200-600 calories to your meal. If you’re thirsty, pour yourself a glass of water and wait until dessert for milk or eggnog.
  5. Limit the alcohol. While alcohol is often a big part of the holiday celebrations, studies show that drinking alcohol, especially when you’re eating a lot of fatty foods, can increase the likelihood of storing those calories as fat. If you want to keep those pounds off your waistline, limit your alcohol consumption or drink the hard stuff—spirits and dry wines with higher concentrations of alcohol have less of a tendency to lead to fat storage.

Photo Credit: Carolyn Jung/

Most important, of course, is having a great time. Whether or not you’re eating healthy should be a minor concern, and you should never have to pass up good food for the sake of avoiding a few calories. Even if you don’t follow these tips, keeping fit around the holidays is as simple as having a healthy diet the rest of the year. Look forward to more of Healthy Gourmet for advice on living healthy and eating well.

-Edmund Brennan 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Can you please credit the kabocha squash cheesecake photo to: “Carolyn Jung/” since it’s my photo from my own blog? Thank you so much!

    November 19, 2012

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