Thriving Through the Holidays

By Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN

Staying healthy over the holidays can be a challenge. We tend to exercise less and eat and drink more. However, let’s put things into perspective:

  • There are 36 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s
  • Approximately 216 meals and snacks in the holiday season
  • Three Holidays

This means there are a lot of opportunities to make healthy choices.


Breakfast tends to be the most controllable meal. Set yourself up for success by eating a balanced breakfast each morning. Aim for including at least 20 grams of protein, whole grains, healthy fats, and lots of color.

Example: Slice of whole grain toast with egg and avocado.


This is when we want to think about filling our belly up with fiber such as fruits and veggies. Think about what 200 calories worth of an apple looks like on your plate vs. 200 calories worth of Chex mix. Eating the apple will take up more space in your stomach, leave you feeling full and satisfied, and reduce the chances of going back for seconds.

Tips: Make half your plate veggies at meals, add produce to every meal/snack, start each meal with soup or salad, bring a veggie tray to your holiday gathering.


Sneak movement into your day. Exercise tends to be the first thing to go during the busy holiday season. If your regular exercise routine is too difficult to maintain right now, there are other things you can do. This may mean parking further away at the mall, taking the stairs, or stretching before bed. Rather than setting aside a full 30-60 minutes a day, try to take a quick 10 minute walk after lunch and dinner, now you have 20 minutes which is better than nothing at all!

Tip: Try to get up and move at least once every hour.


Don’t forget to catch a few zzzzzzz’s. Sleep can affect our health and well-being. Lack of sleep can also cause your body to produce more ghrelin which is our hunger hormone. Therefore, you may find yourself hungrier during the day.

Tip: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep at night.

Liquid Calories

Avoid drinking your calories. Try to limit consumption of high calorie beverages such as egg nog, hot chocolate, apple cider, and pumpkin spiced lattes. Think of these as a special treat and try to choose unsweetened beverages or water most often.

Be Prepared

Pack healthy snacks. Always be prepared. If you know you will be out of the house for long periods of time, pack healthy snacks so you aren’t at the mercy of a fast food restaurant or convenience store. Also, you never want to show up to a party starving.

Examples: Granola/Protein bar (without a lot of sugar), Jerky and fruit, string cheese and grapes, nuts and fruit.


Last but not least and probably most importantly… enjoy the holidays. It wouldn’t be the holidays without parties, family, friends, and food. We don’t want to throw complete caution to the wind, but we can also have a game plan of when we want to indulge. Just maintain perspective and enjoy.

Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN
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