6 Ways Nutritionists Outsmart Overeating During the Holidays

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year—but with tempting treats at every turn, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve can also be the most challenging time of year to stay on track. It’s not surprising that the average American gains approximately one to two pounds in November and December. And while the number on the scale may only slightly change, most people never lose the extra holiday weight.

Here’s how six registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) stay on track and help their clients avoid holiday-related weight gain.

Opt for a napkin

“Appetizers may seem innocent enough, but in reality, nibbling on baked brie and crackers, Swedish meatballs, or spinach-artichoke dip can add up to more than the main course. Try this strategy to keep your apps on track: Skip using appetizer plates and eat your apps only off napkins. Using napkins will automatically make it harder to overindulge with the high-cal starters.” 

–Lindzi S. Torres, RDN, performance dietitian, United States Air Force

Politely decline the food pushers

“Aunt Susan. Grandma Jane. Everyone has at least one food pusher in their life. The family member or friend who is always encouraging you to taste this or nibble on that, you know, because you deserve to. Instead of eating to appease, come up with a statement you can use to cordially set a boundary at holiday gatherings so the food choices you make are yours and yours alone–like ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

–Malina Linkas Malkani, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Dress up a mocktail

“Party-goers often rely on alcohol to put them in a festive mood, but you can trick out your non-alcoholic drinks with glassware and garnishes that give you the special, feel-good feelings minus all the boozy calories. Try this: Fill up a champagne glass with your favorite seltzer garnished with fresh pomegranate arils, or fill a brandy glass with low-fat eggnog topped with nutmeg and cinnamon.”

–Bridget McCormick, RDN, Baylor Scott & White Health

Focus on your seasonal favorites

“I always tell my clients to use their calories wisely, so instead of [spending] them on everyday foods, allot more calories to ‘special’ holiday foods you wait for all year, whether that’s a family stuffing or holiday cookies. For party-goers, I have them first assess available options to determine which items are most appealing so that they can focus on mindfully enjoying their favorite foods.”

–Suzanne Fleming, RD, McPherson Hospital

Snack smart before you dine

“This may seem counterintuitive, but eating the right snack before heading to your holiday party can help you stay the course rather than give in to every crowd-pleasing treat on the buffet table. The most satisfying snacks have protein, fiber, or both to help keep blood sugar levels in check. Some great choices include a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or an apple or pear with nut butter.”

–Jennifer Willoughby, RD, Cleveland Clinic

Arrange a fun, food-free activity

“So many holiday parties revolve around food and drinking, it’s no wonder it’s so hard to stay on track. Instead, try something different by planning a party that includes a hike, ice skating, a flag football game, a spontaneous dance party, or some other type of activity that gets guests moving and away from food.”

–Whitney Linsenmeyer, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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