Monthly Health Message:

Eat and Be Merry: Tips for Healthy Holiday Indulging

November 2011

Brittney Press, UMDNJ Dietetic Intern
Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS, Preceptor and FCHS Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Eating healthy during the holidays can be challenging, especially when there is a cornucopia of foods to choose from. However, you do not need to give up your favorite Thanksgiving dishes to maintain your weight. By following these tips at your holiday table, you can enjoy both the food and your family without worrying about your health:

  1. Prevent Overeating- Be sure to eat a wholesome breakfast and lunch before going to your Thanksgiving destination. When we don't eat for long periods of time, our blood sugar goes down and we tend to overeat at our next meal. By spacing out meals throughout the day, our blood sugar stays steady and we are not as prone to overindulge at dinner.
  2. Remember Portion Sizes - Every dish can be enjoyed as long as you keep to appropriate portion sizes. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables, 1/4 of it with turkey or other meat, and the remaining 1/4 of the plate with a starch, such as stuffing or mashed potatoes. Eat slowly and enjoy your food until you are full.
  3. Remove the Skin From the Turkey. Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein to support our muscles, but the skin can be loaded with fat. Try removing the skin to lower the fat and calories before you eat it. This will help to keep your cholesterol in check also.
  4. Raid Your Spice Cabinet - Foods do not always need to be flavored with heavy amounts of butter and salt. Try new seasonings, either dried or fresh, to help maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure. Try seasoning your turkey with coriander and sage, or use ground thyme in your potatoes or stuffing.
  5. Save Calories, Drink Water. Specialty holiday drinks such as egg nog can be high in fat sugar, and calories, especially if alcohol is in the recipe. Remember that certain drinks, like alcohol or sweetened bevrages should be consumed in moderation. Indulging in a glass of wine with dinner is a good option when selecting a beverage to celebrate the holidays.
  6. Save Room for Dessert. What are the holidays without apple or pumpkin pie? Enjoy a small sliver instead of a large slice or remove some of the crust to lower the fat and calories. A plate of fruit is also a great healthy go-to option if you are craving something sweet.

Make sure you add some physical activity each day along with consuming a healthful diet. Enjoy the holidays by taking small steps to eat less, enjoy your meals and your family, and stay in shape for the New Year.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences