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Happy Healthy Holidays from Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Abby and Whitney

Holidays are about spending time with loved ones and tending to the wellbeing of the mind, body, and spirit. Often holidays include special foods as well.  A healthy diet is defined as one that provides “a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy”.  Here are some tips from your Bon Secours Registered Dietitians for helping your Holiday Foods fit that goal a bit better. 

  • Make it a Holi-DAY, not a Holi-week or Hoi-month. 
  • Make a Balanced Holiday Plate with ½ the plate non-starchy vegetables, ¼ lean protein options, and the other ¼ starchy vegetables, whole grains, and sweet treats.
  • Be active earlier on the holiday if there will be a lot of sitting and visiting time later.
  • Bring a healthy side dish to share when going to someone else’s house.
  • Plan out the splurges ahead of time so they don’t sneak up on you or pile up.
  • Keep an eye on the alcohol. Recommendations are 1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men in a day. Some holiday drinks are very high in calories. Some lighter options are wine spritzer or mixing with seltzer, 4oz 100% fruit juice, or lower calorie drinks.  
  • Listen to your hunger-fullness cues and don’t eat past full. To help achieve this, don’t go to a party hungry. Instead, have a balanced snack before going.
  • If you are concerned about your own self-control, ask someone to be an accountability buddy. You are likely not alone in wanting to eat healthier.
  • Leftovers freeze great. Don’t get holiday food FOMO (fear or missing out): feeling like you have to eat a certain food because it won’t come around again till next year. Spreading out these special foods in small portions throughout the year can reduce their power. 

Recipe Modification Guide

Most recipes can be modified to make it healthier and still be delicious.  Here are some simple tips and suggestions:

Focus on reducing:  Calories, fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium

Increase: Fiber and nutrients by adding more vegetables and using whole grain, high fiber products.

Ways to modify: Reduce, Eliminate, Substitute, Add

For example:

Reduce cheese, coconut, sugar by ½

Eliminate added salt in recipes and add other seasonings (oregano, cayenne pepper, etc)

Substitute a lower fat version for full fat (Use fat free sour cream instead of regular full fat, 2% cheese instead of regular cheese) and substitute no salt or lower sodium versions for high sodium (no salt added canned tomatoes instead of regular canned tomatoes)

Add shredded vegetables to spaghetti sauce, soups, and casseroles; add fruit to muffins and cereals. 

Use healthy preparation method:  Bake, Broil, Steam, Grill, Sauté’ with minimal amounts of healthy oils (olive, canola, avocado, peanut). Season with herbs, spices, vinegars, and citrus juices & zests instead of salt and / or sugar.

If modifying the recipe is not an option, taking a smaller portion always is!


Ingredient  –  Healthy Alternative

WHOLE milk, yogurt, cottage cheese or sour cream  –  Low fat or fat-free versions  (1% milk or skim)

Mayonnaise  –  Light mayonnaise or nonfat plain yogurt

Bouillon or box / canned broth or stock  –  “Low sodium” or “No salt added” broth/ stock

Fried chicken thigh  –  Skinless baked / broiled / grilled chicken breast

Oil in baked goods  –  Nonfat plain yogurt or unsweetened applesauce

Noodles / rice  –  Whole wheat noodles / brown rice

Whole egg  –  2 egg whites

Ground beef  –  Ground turkey or chicken (all white meat)

Ice cream  –  Frozen pureed fresh fruit sorbet

Onion Salt or Garlic Salt  –  Fresh onion or garlic, or powder versions


Abby Forman, MS, RD
Whitney Voorhees, MS, RD, CDE