Navigating the Holidays: Tips and Tricks for a Healthier, Happier Season

It’s hard to believe it – but the holiday season is just around the corner! I recently had the fortunate opportunity to give a nutrition seminar to Orange Theory Fitness members around the Chicago-land area on how to navigate the holiday season while keeping your health and fitness goals in check. Since the tips were pretty well received – I figured why not share them with you! But instead of all at once – I’ll share a couple every week so as not to overwhelm you!

Holiday-weight-gain.jpgBut before I dive in – why bother? “It’s the holidays – let me eat what I want,” right? I wholeheartedly agree that you should celebrate and enjoy yourself – but also feel that just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to derail your health and fitness goals. There’s a misperception that we gain a ‘ton’ of weight during the holiday season. And while some may gain more than others – the truth is the average person only gains about one pound during the holiday season. The issue though is we don’t lose that pound leading to an increase in weight over time.

Second – let’s face it – the holidays are stressful (amen!). Between work, holiday parties, family, friends, church, and other obligations you may have – there just isn’t enough time for everything and often our health takes a back seat. That shouldn’t be the case. If anything – now is when you should make it more of a priority to ensure you ward off illness and stay healthy during this festive time.

So on to my tips and tricks. I hope you enjoy this series of posts! Let me know – I always love feedback!!

Tip #1: Party Time Prep

Holiday season likely means a slew of get-togethers filled with hor ‘douerves galore. How do you navigate them when pigs in a blanket or creamy artichoke dip are calling your name? First – never – if at all possible – show up hungry (or in my case, hangry). Why? You are more apt to eat everything in sight and alcohol will hit you faster. Have a snack before you leave the office or house. One of my go-to snacks when I’m in a pinch are Health Warrior Chia Bars (full disclosure: I serve on the Health Warrior Dietitian Council). These little goodies pack a punch of fiber (5g per bar) and healthy fat with only 3g of sugar. And they are only 100 calories and the perfect size to through in your purse, work bag, car or back pack. They come in delicious flavors too – like chocolate chip cookie dough, banana nut or coconut. Have a little more time? Then follow my suggestions for a healthy snack: it should include a carbohydrate (e.g., bread, cereal, fruit, dairy, etc.), healthy fat (e.g., nut butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, etc.) and quality protein (e.g., dairy, soy, egg, meat products or some combination of nuts/seeds). Examples include a yogurt parfait made with greek yogurt of your choice (look for low or no added sugar), granola and some chopped apples or other fruit; a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana; or a handful of carrots with some hummus, whole grain crackers and 1 oz of cheese (about the size of your thumb).

7790ecd6-edf2-4a43-94f4-6343f41dec49Once you’ve arrived to the party, attack the snacks mindfully. Survey what is offered and take what it is you truly want to eat vs. a little bit of everything. Research has shown that when faced with a wide variety of foods, people tend to eat more—regardless of true hunger level. Really try to tune in to your hunger level and whether you really want the chips and dip or the veggies and hummus. Take a little and call it a day. Another tactic – fill your plate with better-for-you options first. I like to encourage clients to follow the 1/2 plate rule – at meals and with snacks. 1/2 of your plate (or bowl) should be fruits/veggies. One quarter grain and the other quarter a lean protein of your choice. This visual will help keep portions in check.

Last – once you’ve had your fill, stand away from the snack table so you aren’t prone to mindless nibbling. You can also hold on to something to lessen your likelihood to munch. Think about it – when our hands are full, it’s hard to stuff our face. Try to really be keyed in to what you are eating when you are eating – focus on enjoying each bite you take.

My next two tips will focus on alcohol and how to survive the day-to-day (hello office donuts). So stay tuned for more and feel free to comment with the tips that you take during the holidays to stay on track! I’ll end each post with one of my favorite holiday recipes – because food! All are holiday inspired but health-ified (still delicious). Cheers!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

You’ll save over 250 calories, 20g of fat (while also switching to a healthier fat), and gain 3g of fiber per serving compared to traditional chocolate mousse. Have fun with your guests by asking them to guess the mystery ingredient. This recipe is also a great way to use up avocados that have started to turn brown. Enjoy!

New Picture (2)Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado (the riper, the better)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I prefer Fairlife to get an extra dose of protein)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth/creamy. Transfer to a bowl or custard cups and chill for 20 min before serving. Eat within 2-3 days. Makes about 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 166 calories, 6g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 52 mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 3g protein (if using Fairlife – regular milk has about 2g protein/1/4 cup)


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