Healthy Holiday Eating

Sticking to your healthy eating plans can be challenging during the holidays. With parties, busy schedules, and endless temptations, it’s easy to let healthy habits slide during the festive season.

Here are a few ideas to help you enjoy your favourite foods while saving some room for healthy eating.

Five tips for healthy holidays

With a few simple tips, you can enjoy your favourite holiday foods and still keep your commitment to eating well. Most importantly, enjoy the holiday spirit. If you happen to overindulge, have lighter meals the next day and find time for fun activities.

Tip 1: Eat regularly.

  • Skipping meals can lead to overeating.
  • Get a burst of energy in the morning by eating breakfast. 
  • Keep your energy levels up and curb your hunger by eating small meals and snacks every three to four hours.

Tip 2: Load up with colour.

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. This is a great way to balance out calorie-rich foods.
  • Choose fresh cut veggies, leafy green salads, and fruit.
  • Hosting a meal? Start off with a steaming bowl of squash soup.

Tip 3: Enjoy your favourite holiday foods.

  • Enjoy special holiday foods like shortbread cookies, latkes, turkey with stuffing, and mashed potatoes, but keep your portions in check by using smaller plates.
  • Pass on high-calories foods that you can get any time, like chips and chocolate.

Tip 4: Watch your drinks.

  • Calories from drinks can add up quickly. This is true for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Drink slowly. If you choose to drink alcohol, alternate alcoholic drinks with lower calorie options such as sparkling water with lime, low-sodium vegetable juice, or cranberry juice with club soda.
  • Love eggnog? Enjoy a small cup and think of it as dessert.

Tip 5: Be active.

  • Balance out those extra holiday calories with some activity.
  • Adults should aim for the recommended 2 ½ hours of weekly physical activity.
  • Start slowly and build up. Every ten-minute burst of activity counts. You’ll feel great!
  • Going to the mall? Add a few extra laps of walking around.

Healthy ideas for eating out

There’s an endless supply of rich food and free-flowing drinks during the holidays, whether you’re eating out with friends, going to parties, or visiting family. Arm yourself with these ideas to keep portions in check and temptation under control.


  • Go for smaller portions when eating out at restaurants. Most places serve more food than you need and it’s usually high in fat and sodium.
  • Check out these tips to make healthier choices when eating out and manage the amount of fat and sodium in your meal.

Buffets and cocktail parties

  • Eat regular meals and snacks before going to a party. That way, you won’t arrive starving and you’ll be less tempted to overindulge.
  • Scope out your options and make one trip to the buffet.Instead of eating a bit of everything, choose the foods you really want, and keep the portions small. Add some colour to your choices too.
  • Focus on socializing. Steer the conversation away from the food table so you’re less likely to nibble mindlessly.
  • Set a limit. Cocktail parties with finger foods can make it hard to keep track of what you’re eating. Pick a maximum number of appetizers and skip the rest. Healthier choices include: cocktail shrimp, satays, fresh spring rolls, sushi, and vegetables and fruit with low-fat dip.

Big holiday meal

  • Offer to bring a dish. Take a vegetable or fruit platter, bean dip with whole grain pita wedges, or tomato and black bean salsa with baked tortilla chips.
  • Start with small portions and eat slowly. Your brain needs 20 minutes to realize you’re full. Take a break before reaching for seconds.
  • Get moving. Go for a walk after your meal or lace up for a fun skate. Play in the snow–throw a few snowballs around, build a fort, or go tobogganing.

Healthy family eating during the holidays

The holiday season is a busy time for families: school concerts, shopping for gifts, and getting together with friends and family. A little planning will go a long way in helping you and your family make time for healthy eating.

  • Families who eat together are more likely to eat healthier foods. The holidays are no exception.
  • Plan your meals so things go smoothly on hectic days filled with holiday festivities. Check out Canada’s Food Guide to help you eat foods from all four food groups.
  • Cook meals ahead of time and keep them in your freezer. This will free up time to enjoy with friends and family. Make a list of fast and easy meal ideas that you and your family like to eat.
  • Have healthy snacks  on hand, including pre-cut vegetables and fruit, so it’s easy to grab while you’re rushing from one holiday gathering to the next.
  • Create healthy holiday food traditions. This is a great time for bonding, and the food skills your children learn will stay with them for life. Pick a new vegetable recipe to cook together or make healthy holiday food gifts such as jars filled with dried fruit and nuts, or lentil soup mix.
  • Start off dessert with fruit. Enjoy juicy clementines, pears, or other fruit. This will leave room for a few bites of your favourite dessert.

Holiday food makeovers

Give your favourite holiday foods a healthy twist with these simple makeovers. Your food will taste delicious.

  • Mashed potatoes: Use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes for more fibre and beta-carotene. Add flavour and moisture with buttermilk or milk instead of butter and cream.
  • Stuffing: Make stuffing using whole grain bread, wild rice, or quinoa, instead of white bread. Add carrots, celery, a little dried fruit, and some nuts instead of sausage.
  • Gravy: Use the flavourful brown bits in the pan instead of the fatty drippings. Try lower sodium broth instead of regular broth.   Thicken with cooked, pureed carrots.
  • Soup: Skip the cream and switch to lower sodium or no salt added broth.
  • Latkes: Swap half the potatoes for sweet potatoes. Serve with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or top with an apple cranberry sauce.
  • Baked goods. Make some small changes to your recipes. Replace half the butter or oil in a recipe with applesauce, pureed prunes, or mashed bananas. Reduce the sugar in a recipe by one-third to one-half. Substitute half the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour.
  • Try new vegetable side dishes: Using fresh or frozen vegetables, serve  roasted carrots and parsnips, steamed green beans with lemon and herbs, baked butternut or acorn squash with a dusting of Parmesan cheese, sautéed kale or collard greens, herb-roasted mushrooms, or a spinach salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

Tips for successful New Year’s resolutions

Making New Year’s resolutions is easy, but keeping them can be challenging. Try these strategies to help you turn your resolutions into reality.

  • Take small steps. Be realistic about what you want to change. Choose one thing that is easy to achieve. For example, boost your calcium intake by drinking milk or a fortified soy beverage at dinner, or increase your fibre intake by choosing whole grain bread instead of white. You’ll be motivated by your success to make even more changes.
  • Be specific. Instead of “I want to eat healthier,” write down something more detailed like “I will eat one serving of vegetable or fruit at every snack,” or “I will take my lunch from home every day.” This will also make it easier to track your success and feel good about meeting your goals.
  • Get the whole family involved. Having the right support in place will help you meet your goals. For example, if your goal is to create a meal plan every week, ask the kids to help choose meals. To eat more vegetables and fruit, brainstorm ideas as a family.
  • Keep at it. It’s okay if you get distracted from your goal. Just get back to it and try again. You may have to adjust your approach so that your goal is easier to reach.
  • Celebrate your success. After you’ve accomplished your goal, reward yourself with a fun family outing, or make a date with friends to see a movie, visit a spa, or go for a hike.

Source: Health Canada