Healthy Hints for the Holidays

‘Tis the season for family, friends and holiday cheer. The merriest time of the year has finally arrived, bringing with it snow flurries, silver bells and Christmas trees. With celebrations continuing from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day, it’s easy to let normal healthy eating patterns slip your mind. In fact, studies have shown that the average American gains about 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season. With shopping and parties crowding end-of-December schedules, healthy eating and exercise are usually the first things to go.

While holiday indulgences and lack of exercise may not seem like a big deal at first, getting rid of those extra pounds can be difficult. However, it can be easy to stay fit and festive by following a few simple tips and making easy food swaps at holiday gatherings. Weight loss may seem downright impossible during this time of year, but weight maintenance is an easily achievable goal. Read on for some easy-to-follow holiday fit tips and dish substitutions so your holiday can be just as healthy as it is merry.

Stay-fit Holiday Tips

  • Eat a high-protein breakfast: Not only will you have the energy for plenty of holiday activities, but you’ll feel less hungry throughout the day … and less likely to overeat.
  • Don’t skip meals: It may be tempting to skip lunch when you know you’ll be at a holiday party later in the day. Rather than saving calories, though, this makes you much more likely to indulge at the buffet and consume more calories than you normally would.
  • Make your own dish: Help out at a holiday gathering by bringing your own healthy dish. You’ll be happy to know there is at least one guilt-free dish, and your host will love the contribution!
  • Take the focus off of food: Candy and cookie making is always fun, but there are so many wintertime activities that are not as edible but just as festive. Make wreaths, build a gingerbread house, ice skate, sled or walk around town and admire neighbors’ decorations.

Simple Low-cal Food Swaps

  • White Meat vs. Dark Meat: When faced with the turkey, always choose white meat. Dark meat has about twice the fat of regular turkey breast, and about 40 percent more calories.
  • Green Beans vs. Green Bean Casserole: Made with fried onions and creamy soup, green bean casserole turns a healthy vegetable into a nutritional disaster. Create a healthy holiday option by steaming the green beans and mixing them with potato chunks, then sprinkling them with slivered almonds.
  • Cider vs. Eggnog: Though it is a holiday staple, a glass of eggnog is packed with over 250 calories and over half the daily recommended amount of saturated fat. By replacing it with a glass of hot apple cider, you’ll save about 100-150 calories and all the fat.
  • Pecan Pie vs. Pumpkin Pie: While neither is exactly healthy, you can save between 200-250 calories by choosing pumpkin pie over pecan. Not only is the pumpkin lower in calories, but it contains vitamin A, calcium and iron.
  • White Potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes: White potatoes have potassium and fiber, but still don’t have quite as many nutritional benefits as sweet potatoes. A single cup of these winter veggies contains vitamin C, beta carotene and 400 percent of your vitamin A needs.

To help you get a head start on your healthy holiday, here are a few healthy cookie recipes to try out this holiday season – each is 100 calories or less!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (about 100 calories each)


  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup dried cherries


Preheat oven to 375°. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl. In a separate bowl, blend butter and sugars until texture is fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Continue mixing while adding egg and vanilla; beat until smooth. Slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter one. Gradually stir in chocolate chips, walnuts and cherries. Roll dough balls about 1 tbsp. big and place onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 minutes or until golden brown.

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies (about 55 calories each)


Parchment paper
2 ½ cups walnut halves
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup plus 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
4 egg whites
1 tbsp. vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350°. Place parchment paper on 2 large baking sheets. Finely chop walnuts on cutting board or other work surface, then transfer to a separate baking sheet and toast for 9 minutes. Let cool. Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in a bowl, slowly stirring in walnuts. Mix in egg whites and vanilla, mix until moist. Be sure not to over-beat the mix, or it will stiffen. Drop teaspoons of batter onto baking sheets. Bake until tops are glossy and slightly cracked, which should take about 15 minutes.

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  1. Merry, Merry! « Running with Balance - December 25, 2012

    […] Healthy Hints for the Holidays […]

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