Healthy Holiday Hacks

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…almost! November is here, which means turkey day is near with Christmas right around the corner…

Did you know that the average person gains roughly 1-2 pounds during the holiday season? Are you surprised? This may not seem like a big deal…1-2 pounds is not that much…however studies show that the weight gained during the holidays may become an overall pattern for the upcoming year…and no one’s resolution is to gain unhealthy amounts of weight! (1)

Have no fear! We can still enjoy our holiday parties and activities without busting a button. Here are my healthy holiday hacks.

  1. Stay Active

While I am a registered dietitian and believe nutrition is key to living a better life, holidays are a time to splurge…and exercise is just as important–and maybe a little more during the holidays. The season is so busy, so many parties, shopping trips, and get-together’s with family that it becomes too easy to “forget” to work-out, but I assure you this is something you do not want to do!

Exercising will help you burn off those extra pumpkin pie calories that you would not eat on a normal day as well as help you not feel as sluggish after a heavy meal. It could be as simple as going for an evening walk after Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Or, better yet, schedule time for your workout! There are tons of holiday run/walk races this time of year.

If you know the only time you have to workout is in the morning before your holiday gatherings, make time for it. Set a reminder on your phone. Pick an accountability partner. Do something fun that you can enjoy. Staying active is key in forgoing that dreaded holiday gain (not to mention the crappy feeling after a huge meal).

2. Don’t Skip Meals

“What? I know I will stuff my face sick at the family gathering at 1:00pm, so I am going to fast all morning so I can eat as much as I want…”

Think again! This is probably the worst thing you could do, because your body is going to be so hungry for that meal that:

1) your eyes are bigger than your stomach, so you stuff your plate full of food

2) you overeat

3) you feel miserable, can’t move, but still want to hit up the dessert table.

We’ve all been there, am-i-right?? Thanksgiving should be a memorable, enjoyable time…and I know I can’t enjoy the company or annual Grant corn-hole tournament after overeating at the meal…

lunch table salad
Photo by Kaboompics .com on

Instead of skipping breakfast just to gorge yourself in the afternoon, I suggest having a light breakfast packed with protein and healthy fats to get you going…you can skip the extra carbs if you know you will be indulging in more festive treats in the afternoon…but don’t skip on food altogether.

3. Scan the buffet before making your plate.

You know the feeling…you grab your plate and head to the food bar, and everything looks so good and it’s so overwhelming that you just put a scoop of everything on your plate…

Did you know that the average amount of calories consumed at Thanksgiving dinner alone is ~3,000 calories? (2) That is not even including desserts and possible after dinner drinks. Think about the standard American Thanksgiving dinner…

It includes: mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, corn pudding, squash casserole, macaroni and cheese, and of course–turkey. A lot of those casseroles contain generous helpings of saturated fat and hidden refined sugar.

My advice is to pick your top 2-3 favorite sides to go along with your turkey. You can even forgo the extra dinner rolls to save some empty calories. As always, load up on the non-starchy veggies like the Brussels sprouts, fresh salads, and asparagus–then choose 2-3 of your favorite sides and turkey.

asparagus bunch bundle close up
Photo by Foodie Factor on

What does a Thanksgiving plate look like for me? I would fill half my plate up with non starchy veggies before handling the casseroles. I would then choose sweet potato casserole and dressing, and a small piece of turkey (I am not a huge meat eater). That sounds like a happy plate to me!

If you prefer the dinner as opposed to the dessert, then allow yourself to have a second helping of your favorite casserole instead of that pumpkin pie.

As for me, gimme that pie! 🙂

photo of pumpkins
Photo by Pixabay on

4. Choose your beverages wisely.

The holidays are a time to celebrate–and for some people that includes alcohol. Go easy on your drinks because alcohol contains 7 empty calories per gram of alcohol consumed–that may not mean much to you now, but it adds up-and alcohol contains no nutrients in it whatsoever.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather eat my calories than drink them…however, if you get in the holiday spirit with a cocktail or glass of wine, check out some “healthier cocktail” recipes on Pinterest. 


Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, remember to give thanks with a grateful heart. It is so easy to get  caught up in the “now” and business of everyday life, but take time this holiday season to write down what you are thankful for. I know I am counting my blessings…and it gives me hope for the next year to come!

Happy Holidays!

Until Next Time,

Happy Chewing!
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Follow me on Social Media!
Facebook: Live Better with Kat Detter

Instagram: @betterwithkatdetter_rd

  1. (2018). – GDPR. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018].
  2. Korn, M. (2018). How Many Calories Americans Will Eat on Thanksgiving. [online] ABC News. Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018].

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