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Tips for a Healthier Holiday


By Beth Fitzsimmons, MS, RDN, LDN

The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and celebration, but for many the holidays bring about uncertainty or anxiety related to maintaining nutrition goals. However, conquering the holidays is much easier when you prepare and have a plan in place. My five biggest tips for successful holiday eating are 1) choose a variety of foods, 2) control portions, 3) redesign your recipes, 4) beware of nutrition buzzwords, and 5) don’t deprive yourself.

  1. Typical holiday dishes, like casseroles and desserts, are heavy on the calories without offering us many nutrients in return. It’s important to choose a variety of foods to ensure our diet still maintains balance, even during the holidays. Try filling most of your plate with fruit and vegetable-based dishes and lean protein, like baked turkey.
  2. One way to control calorie intake during the holidays is to use smaller dishware. Use nine-inch plates during family meals, rather than 12 or 14-inch plates. A smaller plate means a smaller surface area, therefore, there is less room to fill up on your plate. Plus, a smaller plate that is full looks much more satisfying than a larger plate that is only half full.
  3. A trendy way to increase the healthfulness of your holidays is to redesign your recipes. There are many different ways to use healthy ingredients in place of less-healthy ones, without sacrificing taste! When it comes to desserts, think about adding black beans to brownie recipes or using applesauce as sweetener in cookie recipes.
  4. The supermarket is full of different products and ways to get you to buy those products. Don’t fall for nutrition buzzwords without knowing the meaning behind them. While words like “low fat” and “fat free” do indicate a lower fat content, the flavor that is lost when fat is removed is usually replaced in some other way, often by adding more sodium.
  5. “Gluten-free” is a term that has generated a lot of public fear lately. However, it’s not necessarily a buzzword; it has a significant meaning for some people. Gluten is a type of protein found in grains and this can be troublesome for people with Celiac disease or gluten allergies or intolerances. A diagnosis of one of these ailments from a medical professional justifies the need to buy gluten-free products. Consuming a gluten-free diet solely for the purpose of being “healthier” is not warranted.
    Additionally, the term “natural” often gets confused with the idea that a product is completely unprocessed. According to the Food and Drug Administration, this term does not actually have a set definition in place. Currently, the term indicates that a product is free of artificial ingredients, but does not comment on a product’s method of production or processing.


  6. The holidays are a time to be with family and celebrate, so celebrate! Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite dishes; it could lead to a larger binge-session later. It only takes a few bites to satisfy cravings, so take a sample size of your favorite dessert (or two).

Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center is a medically based fitness facility, located at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington. It is open to anyone, seven days a week, with exercise professionals on staff at all times. The Center includes a warm water hydrotherapy pool, lap pool, large variety of group classes, a 1/12-mile track, dietician services, and group weight-management classes. For more information, contact them at 309-433-WELL (9355) or