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Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Is the season for sweet treats at the office, upcoming family feasts and emotional triggers to overeat, which will unfortunately leave many Americans a few pounds heavier when they begin the new year. But despite the challenges of holiday eating, there are strategies to keep your diet on-track – or at least keep the scale in place – when those holiday cravings kick in.

  1. Exercise! The number one rule for surviving the holidays is to keep up your exercise routine. No exercise routine in place? Start walking. Your eating habits will more than likely change over the holidays, despite your best efforts. Exercising can help combat those extra holiday calories and keep those pounds away.
  2. Water. Try to drink 4 oz to 8 oz of water every hour to help keep you full throughout the day. Then, if you encounter a cookie tray your fuller stomach will help you say “no.”
  3. Set holiday weight loss goals and write them down. Is your goal to lose 2 pounds by Jan. 1 or are you just planning to maintain your current weight? Think about what you plan to achieve and write it down. Share it with a friend or family member and stick by it. Remember, most adults gain weight over the holidays. So, even if you can just maintain your current weight, you are better off than most people during the weight challenging holidays.
  4. Use the buddy system. Find someone close to you that is also trying to survive the temptations of the holidays. Share your struggles and accomplishments. Exercise together! Weight loss efforts are more effective when you have a buddy.
  5. Eat a protein snack before the next holiday party. Never go to a party or luncheon on an empty stomach. Instead load up on some protein to help with those cravings. Grab some Greek yogurt or a handful of almonds. A fuller stomach gives you more willpower and helps you to consume fewer calories.
  6. Stress management. The holidays are stressful and many of us gravitate to food during times of stress. Now is the perfect time to work on your stress management. Think of things that relax you and that you enjoy, and make time for them. Some examples include: taking a bubble bath; getting massages; keeping a journal; meditating; or practicing yoga.
  7. Plan ahead. What’s your day look like? Is it a holiday work luncheon followed by a dinner out at a restaurant with friends? Think about what you will eat and how much you will eat at each meal. Be sure to budget your calories and stick with your plan. 
  8. Take advantage of “normal” days and stick to your healthy eating routine.  No holiday parties today? Great! Do your best to stick to your normal eating routine and avoid any unnecessary calories. 
  9. Look up the calories of your favorite holiday foods. Knowing that a scoop of cheesy potatoes is 300 calories, or that the cookies you love are 250 calories each, may help you think twice before indulging.
  10. Bring a healthy dish to share. Offer to bring a veggie tray or salad to the party. The host/ hostess will appreciate your willingness to help and you will have the comfort of knowing a healthy option will be available.

Here are a few healthy and tasty recipes from the kitchens of the “Just This” dietitians at Summa Health System. They’re sure to help you stay on track with your holiday eating goals:

Baked Blueberry Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal

Serving size: 1 cup


1½ c steel cut oats

½ teas ground ginger

½ teas sea salt

1 teas baking powder

4 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk

2 c light unsweetened coconut milk

1½ c fresh or frozen blueberries

¼ c dried blueberries

¼ c unsweetened coconut flakes

Blueberry sauce: 2 c fresh or frozen blueberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats ginger, salt, baking powder, almond milk and coconut milk in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Fold in blueberries and coconut.
  3. Pour into a 13X9 inch baking dish and bake for one hour.
  4. The oatmeal will not appear to be done when you take it out of the oven. Place it in the refrigerator overnight to thicken.
  5. To make the blueberry sauce, heat 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries in a sauce pan with a splash of water. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Reheat oatmeal in microwave and serve with sauce.

Nutrition Facts: Per Servings

Calories: 197; Total Fat: 8.7g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Trans Fat: 0g; Protein: 4.6g; Sugar: 5.7g; Fiber: 4.2g; Sodium: 245mg

Dietitian Notes:

  • Steel-cut oats are the least processed type of oat and, therefore, are the most nutritious.
  • Oats contain a specific type of fiber, beta-glucan, which is known for its cholesterol lowering effects.
  • One study showed that type 2 diabetes patients who were given oats experienced much lower rises in blood sugar compared to those who were given white rice or bread.
  • Blueberries have recently been found to help with coordination and memory, even in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dietitian Recommendation: When using coconut flakes, purchase the unsweetened version. Sweetened coconut flakes have 2 teaspoons of added sugar per ounce.


During the holiday season it is very important to start each day off with breakfast.  If you are saving up for a big holiday meal and skip breakfast, chances are very good you will be starved when it is time to eat.  When you are hungry it is much harder to control what and how much you eat. So in the end, you will take in more calories by skipping breakfast. 

Pumpkin Popovers

Servings: 12


¼ c pumpkin

3 eggs

3 egg whites

2 c skim milk

2 teas grapeseed oil

2 c all-purpose flour

½ teas kosher salt

¼ teas pumpkin pie spice

1/8 teas cayenne pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place muffin tin in oven to preheat.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, egg whites, milk, oil and spices until smooth. Mix in the flour.
  3. Take the muffin tin out of the oven and spray with cooking spray. Divide and pour batter between 12 muffin tin cups.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cut a small slit into the side of each popover and bake an additional 7 to 8 minutes.

Nutrition Facts: Per Servings

Calories: 120 ; Total Fat: 2.2g; Saturated Fat: 0.5g; Trans Fat: 0g; Protein: 6g; Sugar: 2.2g; Fiber: 0.6g; Sodium: 121mg


Take a side dish to share when you are going to someone else’s house for a holiday party.  The hostess will appreciate your extra effort and you will have a dish to fall back on that will be a healthier option than what is being offered at the party. 

Broccoli with Almond Dressing

Servings: 4

Serving Size: 6oz

Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals


1 head of broccoli, cut into florets

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp tahini

3 Tbsp almond butter

½ Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce

¼ teas chili flakes


  1. Cut broccoli into small florets. Blanch broccoli by boiling it in water for 3 minutes, then put it in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  2. In a mixing bowl add the dressing ingredients and toss well with the broccoli.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories: 217; Saturated Fat: 1.7g; Trans Fat: 0g; Total Sugar: 5.7g; Sodium: 617mg

 Dietitian Notes:

  • Steam your broccoli! When steamed, broccoli has cholesterol-lowering effects due to the fiber which binds to and excretes bile, leading to lower cholesterol. Raw broccoli also has cholesterol-lowering effects, but not as much as steamed broccoli.
  • ½ cup (22 calories) of broccoli per day has been shown to reduce cancer risk.
  • Tahini is made from crushed sesame seeds. The tahini, along with the sesame oil used in the recipe, makes this food high in polyunsaturated fats. These fats are beneficial for cell growth and development and are extremely heart healthy.

Dietitian Recommendation: Try to include broccoli in your diet at least 2-3 times per week and make your serving size between 1 to 1 ½ cups.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushrooms, Peppers, & Goat Cheese

Servings: 4


2 acorn squash

1 1/2 teas kosher salt

1 teas black pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 c onion, diced

2 c cabbage, sliced thin

1 red pepper, julienned

1 yellow pepper, julienned

2 c button mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 oz goat cheese

2 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim the tops and bottoms of the squash and cut in half horizontally. Place on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the other tbsp of olive oil. Add the cabbage, red and yellow peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Then sauté 4 to 5 minutes and add garlic.
  3. Equally fill each squash with the vegetable mixture, and crumble the goat cheese over top. Place under the broiler to melt the cheese, and garnish with parsley.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 360; Total Fat: 14.6g; Saturated Fat: 4.6g; Trans Fat: 0g; Protein: 2g; Sugar: 0.68g; Fiber: 7.1g; Sodium: 447mg

Dietitian Notes: People who are lactose intolerant (about a quarter of the American population!) are sometimes able to tolerate goat cheese even if they have problems digesting cheese made from cow's milk.

One serving or one cup of acorn squash contains 145% of the daily recommended requirements for Vitamin A. The shelf life of a squash is up to six months.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Servings: 4


4 sweet potatoes, 2.5 lbs. each

3 Tbsp olive oil

½ teas kosher salt

½ teas black pepper

¼ teas red pepper

¼ teas cinnamon

2 Tbsp chives, snipped


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Combine the salt, pepper and cinnamon in a small bowl and rub the seasoning over the potatoes.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chives.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 203; Total Fat: 10.2g; Saturated Fat: 1.3g; Trans Fat: 0g; Protein: 2.1g; Natural Sugar: 5.4g; Fiber: 4.1g; Sodium: 288mg

All recipes are courtesy of Just This, a Summa Health System one-to-one weight-loss coaching program. Learn more or sign up for the Just This program at or call (330) 375-6130.