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Ways to Keep Eating Healthy During the Holidays

November 16, 2021
Ways to Keep Eating Healthy During the Holidays - Lark Health

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In this article:

  • Holiday fare can be high in calories, fat, and sugar. It is easy to let these foods replace more nutritious ones.
  • Lower-calorie, higher-nutrient choices can help prevent weight gain. They can be regular parts of your meals during the holidays. Tips include planning ahead, having healthy foods on hand, and being aware of what is on your plate.
  • Lark can help you make more nutritious choices. This health coach is available 24/7 via your smartphone. The more you use it, the more personalized your health and weight loss program will be.

Holiday foods are known for being unhealthy. But in December, they may infiltrate your diet. They can add calories, carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy fats. And they can replace more nutritious foods. 

But it is possible to get plenty of nutrients during the holiday season. These are some ways to keep eating healthy foods even while eating the occasional irresistible holiday treat.

1. Start the Day Right

Overnight Spiced Peanut Butter Oatmeal

A good breakfast starts the day with important nutrients before the rest of the day goes haywire. It can also help prevent hunger for hours and stabilize blood sugar so you are less likely to opt into holiday offerings such as caramel corn, monkey (pull-apart) bread, and coffee cake.

Breakfast might have a whole grain, a source of protein, and a fruit or vegetable (or fruit and vegetable). These are some examples of nutritious breakfasts.

  • Breakfast pizza with tomato sauce, low-fat cheese mixed with chopped spinach, and cooked egg whites
  • Oatmeal with fruit and nuts or peanuts
  • Savory oatmeal with cooked zucchini, cooked egg white and melted low-fat cheese
  • Shredded wheat or plain Cheerios with skim milk and fruit

A healthy breakfast can fit into a busy morning. Make and pack it the night before if you will be in a rush. Overnight oatmeal, leftovers, breakfast bowls, and egg muffins are all good make-ahead breakfasts. Whatever the rest of the day holds, you can know you started off well.

2. Stash Snacks


Healthy snacks can stave off hunger. And they can guide you through temptations. Just break out your own healthy snack instead of noshing on Christmas cookies, candy, or fatty appetizers at parties.

Many snacks are shelf-stable. Others can safely be out of the fridge for a day or more. These choices are rich in nutrients. 

  • Baby carrots and other ready-to-eat vegetables, such as cauliflower florets, celery sticks, and sweet baby peppers.
  • Berries, grapes, cut melon, and whole fruit, such as apples, oranges, and clementines.
  • Plain yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat string cheese.
  • Hard-boiled eggs and tuna pouches.
  • Air-popped popcorn and packets of plain instant oatmeal.

The trick is to have snacks ready. That way, they are easy to choose instead of, say, bacon-wrapped cheese or a frosted sugar cookie.

3. Seek Vegetables First

Vegetable sticks

Vegetables add nutrients without many calories. You may already be good at adding them to meals and snacks, especially if you use the plate method for meal planning. And it is best to stay in the habit as much as possible, even during the holidays. At parties and other events, look for raw vegetables, undressed salads, and roasted or other plain vegetables. At formal events with table service, the server can often bring extra vegetables on your plate.

4. Plan Ahead

Cocktail shrimp

Are you going to an event, such as a workplace holiday party or a family get-together? Find out what is likely to be served. Then think about how you can get the best nutrition out of it.

  • Cocktail shrimp, raw vegetables, and nuts or cheese are often served.
  • At buffets and bars, such as taco or pasta, you can usually find vegetables and lean proteins. Green salad, salsa, diced tomatoes, pasta sauce, shredded chicken or chicken breast, salmon or other fish, and fruit salads are commonly available.
  • Chicken or fish and roasted vegetables are often on the menu for sit-down events. You can also request salad with dressing on the side, and ask the server not to bring dessert.

If you do not expect any healthy foods to be at the event, bring your own. For smaller gatherings, you can bring a vegetable or fruit platter, or green salad, for the host or hostess to serve to everyone. For larger gatherings, such as a corporate party, it is okay to bring a healthy snack or two. It is easy to slip a small container of plain yogurt, baby carrots, or an apple into the event and eat them if there is nothing healthy there.

5. BYO Beverage

Hard seltzers

Alcoholic and other beverages at holiday gatherings can be high in calories and sugar. And it can be easy to drink too much of them. Instead, ask for water, unsweetened coffee or tea, or seltzer water. You can not only save hundreds of calories, but also get an important nutrient: water. If you do not think water will be available, bring a bottle with you to the event.

6. Stay Balanced

Balanced food

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest getting at least 85% of your calories from nutritious sources, with only 15% reserved for sources such as added sugars and saturated fats. You cannot easily label each calorie that you eat as healthy or unhealthy, but you can keep the overall picture in mind. Are your less-healthy calories taking over your plate? 

If so, try this. Take only half of your usual portion of less-healthy foods. Then add a nutrient-dense food. These are some examples.

  • Half of a sandwich at a catered work lunch, with salad on the side.
  • Half a serving of stuffing, plus a generous portion of vegetables.
  • Half of a Christmas cookie (or a miniature one) plus a piece of fruit.
  • Half a piece of fudge plus strawberries or another fruit.
  • A small order of pumpkin latte, plus a bottle of water.

You can have your favorite indulgences and stay healthy. Just keep them small while loading up on more nutritious fare.

7. Make One Healthy Swap


The benefits will add up if you consistently make one healthy swap every time you have a treat. These are some examples of ways to make one or more swaps at a time to increase nutrition.

  • Christmas breakfast casserole: Use vegetarian sausage instead of meat sausage, use low-fat cheese, and add more vegetables.
  • Use broth-based gravy instead of gravy made with drippings.
  • Add pureed cauliflower and low-fat cottage cheese to mashed potatoes, and use less butter or cream.
  • Bake with olive oil instead of butter.
  • Use low-fat milk and vanilla pudding mix instead of cream in eggnog.
  • Choose a mini candy cane instead of peppermint bark or chocolate truffles.
  • Make gingerbread cake with whole-grain flour for half the flour, applesauce for the butter, and half the sugar.

These are some tips for more healthy additions.

You can eat the holiday foods you love and still stay on track this year. Lark can help. Lark's nutrition and weight loss coaching includes daily check-ins, meal logging features, and instant feedback. And if motivation is what you need during this busy season, Lark is available 24/7 to provide it. 

Healthy eating during the holidays does not mean giving up everything you love. There are ways to fit in your favorites and stay true to tradition while making healthy choices. Lark can help you make small changes that can keep you on track. 

Your health insurance might cover Lark at no cost to you. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark!

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