< Return to Articles

Tips for Healthy Eating and Preventing Holiday Weight Gain

‘Tis the season to be jolly. However, the holidays can be challenging to get through without the uninvited annual weight gain so many experience this time of year. Food often being the foundation for most family and cultural traditions, it can seem inevitable. Especially for people trying to maintain one’s weight.

Still, the idea of skipping out on Christmas cookies because of weight gain can feel depressing. Let’s review a few strategies that may help you fully enjoy the holiday season without feeling guilty or gaining weight.

Be Realistic

Do not try to lose weight during the holidays. Instead focus on maintaining your weight. Maintenance of your present weight is a big enough challenge during the holiday season. Do not set yourself up for failure by making unrealistic goals for yourself.

Don’t plan to start a new diet right after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays. “After all, If I’m never going to let myself eat this again after January, I might as well eat as much as possible now.” Besides, restrictive diets do not work in the long run. They increase your loss of lean body mass vs fat, slow down your metabolism, increase anxiety, depression, food preoccupation, and binge eating, and make weight re-gain more likely.

Before the Party or Holiday Meal

Do not “save up” your calories by eating very little the day of the event. This strategy usually backfires on us. You will become ravenous and are much more likely to overindulge!

Be sure to eat a high fiber breakfast the morning of a holiday event or big party. High fiber foods (4gm/serving or more) will keep you satisfied for an extended period of time. Good choices include:

  • A high-fiber, high-protein parfait (Plain Greek Yogurt, add ¼ c berries of your choice, layered with a high protein/high fiber cereal like Kashi Go Lean cereal)
  • 100% Whole-grain toast topped with Almond Butter and a few apple slices.

Eat a light snack before going to a Holiday Party. It is not a good idea to arrive at a party famished. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you are also more likely to eat higher fat and higher calorie foods. About 1 hour prior to the going to the party try eating a small salad, fruit, and/or protein.

When You are at the Party

Pay attention to signs of hunger and fullness. It is also a good idea to put your fork down between bites. This helps you focus on the family/friends you are with. Pace yourself, eat slower, thoroughly chew your food, and really taste the delicious meal.

It’s never a good idea to position yourself close to the buffet table or food trays. This can lead to mindless overeating. Instead survey the offerings before getting in line. Only take the food that you really want and more importantly, the food you might only get once a year.

Try to vary your choices to include protein rich foods, lots of vegetables, and a small to moderate number of starches. Minimize or avoid fried foods and rich sauces.

Tips to Making Healthier Holiday Baked Goods


Remember that baking is a science that requires proper care and precision. While sugar adds sweetness to foods, it also plays many other essential functions in the baking process, including color, texture, structure, and as a stabilizer and leavener.

  • Reduce the amount – Try using ¼ less than the amount of sugar a recipe calls for. If the recipe calls for 4 Tablespoons of sugar, use 3 Tablespoons.
  • Purees– Try adding pureed fruits such as raisins, dates, bananas, or yams for a bit of natural sweetness. Using purees can also help you cut down on fat in your baking.
  • Naturally Sweet – Try replacing sugar with natural liquid sweeteners such as honey, agave, or maple syrup. These tend to be sweeter than refined sugar, so you will want to use the following ratio.
    • For every cup of sugar, use 1/3 or ½ cup honey, agave, or maple syrup instead.

Honey, agave, and maple syrup contain liquid, so you will want to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by 25%.

Since honey, agave, and maple syrup caramelize faster than sugar, make sure to reduce the heat on your stovetop or oven by about 25ºF.


Fats play a key role in baking as well. They contribute to the flavor and mouthfeel of a product, and function as leaveners and tenderizers. Try some of these tips to help you cut down on the fat in your recipes while keeping the quality you expect.

  • Whole Milk – Use skim or 1% milk.
  • Sour Cream – Non-fat sour cream or non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • Heavy Whipping Cream – Evaporated skim milk
  • Butter – Replace half butter with mashed bananas, pumpkin puree, apple butter, prunes, or dates.
  • Shortening (1/2 c.) – 1/3 cup oil (Olive, Avocado, or Canola)

Refined Sugar Free Double Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies

Recipe from Simplify Live Love | For printable recipe, click here


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Arils of one large pomegranate
  • 2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, honey, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add eggs and beat until combined.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
  5. Scoop rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until they appear baked.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on pan for 5 minutes.
  8. Then remove to wire rack and let them cool entirely.