Dear Dietitian – Healthy eating during the holidays

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Published Wednesday, November 25, 2020
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RDN, CNSC

2020 has been a tough year, to say the least; we have all had our struggles. Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Two drug companies are bringing COVID-19 vaccines to market soon. The "new normal" is on its way!

The Thanksgiving holiday will be different this year for most of us. Gatherings may be smaller than usual. My niece tested positive for COVID, so her family won't make it to Grandmother's house for the big day.

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, of course. What will you give thanks for this year? Like most families, mine is far from perfect, but I can name several things for which I am deeply grateful to them. One of the most important lessons I learned while growing up is the importance of helping others. My great-grandmother fed the hungry in her home before government assistance programs existed. Her door was always open. Whether it's volunteering in soup kitchen or opening the door for someone in a wheelchair, helping one another is what makes the world go 'round. Generosity instills true joy. 

As for Thanksgiving dinner, some will take a vacation from eating healthy, and that's just fine. Feasting is part of the holiday. But if you're like me, sometimes feast day turns into, "I'll start a new diet on Monday." If you're trying not to blow it completely, follow these tips to help keep you fit.

  • Eat breakfast. Consume this meal just like any other day. A healthy breakfast anchors your appetite for the rest of the day and will help prevent overeating at the main meal.
  • Eat one plateful of food. This is one of the best ways to prevent overeating. Choose the foods you love, but don't go back for seconds. You won't feel deprived since you've made the food choices you want.
  • Fill up on salads and vegetables. You'll get some much-needed fiber and have less room for the high-calorie foods.
  • Stop eating when full. It's ok to be full; just don't stuff yourself. Feeling stuffed is uncomfortable anyway, right?
  • Drink lots of water. Water helps you feel full and prevents dehydration. When we are dehydrated, we are more likely to overeat.
  • Enjoy one dessert. Try to limit yourself to one serving of pie or cake.
  • Alcohol. If cocktails are a part of your day, limit yourself to one or two drinks. Alcohol is high in calories and lowers your inhibitions, making it easier to grab another slice of deliciousness. 
  • Chew gum after dinner. The chewing action gives your mouth something to do, so you will be less likely to pick up a bite of this-or-that.
  • Brush your teeth after Thanksgiving dinner. That minty-fresh taste won't mix well with a bite of sage-seasoned dressing.
  • Focus on something other than food. Play a game, watch football, or socialize. The holidays are a special time to catch up with friends and cousins.

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RDN, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian based in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans. may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.

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