Dietitians Dish: Be mindful of what you're eating this holiday season

Dec. 24, 2013 at 6:24 a.m.

There are many ways to enjoy traditional holiday meals without sacrificing the taste or the waistline. When talking about food during the holiday season, we all agree that this is one of the best times of the year when family and friends get together for good conversations, laughter and sweet indulgences.

If meal substitutions, lower fat meals and recipe modification are out of discussion, then by following the four practical recommendations listed below, you may still be able to prevent additional weight gain and enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty for eating favorite seasonal treats.


December is a month that involves many celebrations, parties and gatherings. Therefore, it is helpful to decide in advance, when and where you are most likely going to want to eat more than usual. Occasionally, you can predict or know in advance if Party A is going to have more of your favorite foods than Party B. Therefore, make a conscious decision to eat less in at least one gathering you are attending.

Portion control

This recommendation is not new to you. Health experts emphasize that portion control is key to maintaining a healthy weight. It allows you to enjoy all kinds of foods, even those considered less nutritious.

Mental schedule

Make a mental schedule of when you are going to be eating your high-calorie foods. Is it going to be on the Christmas dinner or at a friend's New Year's party? Make sure you eat light meals throughout the day before the event and/or the day after.

If you know you are going to be eating high-calorie meals all week long, then set a goal to choose low-calorie foods the following week. Eating healthy and mindfully is a balancing act. You are not supposed to be perfect all the time, but it is important to be aware of your eating habits and take measures accordingly.

Get back on track

Even if you are absolutely enjoying this holiday season without wanting to keep track of the calories and meal sizes, do not forget to get back on track when celebrating is over.

January is an excellent month to take a break from eating heavy meals and get back into an exercise routine. Allow your body to rest but also give it a boost of energy with foods that are light but rich in vitamins and minerals such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

This is the time to clean your oven, stop buying additional flour, sugar and butter and tell your neighbor that you will not be baking until next Christmas. OK, this is a joke, but the point I am trying to make is to take a long break from high-calorie, high-fat foods. The principle of weight loss is simple. If you wish to lose a couple of pounds, you must burn more energy (calories) than what you are eating. Exercising more and eating less will allow you to be successful in achieving your weight loss goals.

Most definitely, a traditional Christmas dinner can affect your weight. It is necessary to keep an eye on your intake if you want to avoid weight gain. However, your regular eating habits throughout the year is what most counts.

Enjoy this season but be a mindful eater. Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

Iustina Iznaola is a registered dietitian at DeTar Hospital. Send questions or comments to



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