Holiday Survival Tips

Posted: Oct 24, 2013

Holidays and special celebrations are a wonderful time to bring people together and food is often a focal point. There are many ways to enjoy get-togethers and not totally lose track of your healthy living goals. Focus on the occasion and being with friends and family, not only on the food.

Steps you can take:

Dietitians have the following tips to help you and your family make healthy choices as a guest or host.

  1. Keep your eye on portion sizes. It's often not what you eat, but how much that can lead to overindulgence at any time of the year. Use Canada's Food Guide as your guide to serving sizes. For those extra treats that are not considered part of the food guide, enjoy a small portion, such as one piece of shortbread, baklava, mincemeat pie, bininka, deep fried samosa, or potato latkes.

  2. Make health and road safety a priority when serving or consuming holiday beverages. Non-alcoholic lower fat eggnogs, "virgin" Caesars, sparkling water and cranberry juice spritzers are great choices in keeping with the season. If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Plan to have water or soda water with a slice of lemon or lime between each drink to pace your intake.

  3. Use fresh zucchini or cucumber sticks, broccoli flowerets, carrot curls, red and green peppers. Serve with a low fat dip or spread such as hummus, yogurt with herbs, fat-free sour cream or fresh salsa. Skip the chips and creamy dips.

  4. Serve crispy pita triangles, flatbread, Naan or Melba toast as alternatives to salty, high fat snack crackers.

  5. A beautiful tray of fresh fruit is a wonderful and refreshing end to any meal. Pineapple, kiwi, mango, pomegranate, blood oranges and grapes, guava, lychees, papaya, banana are a colourful feast for the eyes and taste buds.

  6. Let the holiday spirit move you! Strive for at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Regular exercise not only will give you more energy to cope with the stress of the holiday bustle, but it can also help to compensate for some of your food over-indulgences! No time to get to the gym? How about walking to the grocery store when you only have a few items to pick up, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work? Carry your groceries as a substitute for lifting weights. Every bit of physical activity you can sneak in counts. If you can't get out of the house, do indoor exercise while watching your favourite TV show or chatting on the phone - squats, stretches, legwork, sit-ups, push-ups, treadmill….the possibilities are endless.

  7. Make physical activity part of the holiday fun to provide a balance to eating. Plan a cross-country ski afternoon, skating or a hike combined with a potluck.

  8. Maintain your weight throughout the holidays by being careful about your food choices. Eat three meals every day, starting with breakfast. If you are hungry between meals, try having a small healthy snack. For tips on healthy snacks, see the additional resource section. Having a snack may help prevent you from overeating during the next meal. Limit the number of appetizers you eat, especially if you are planning to have a full meal later. If you are having a buffet, choose the smaller size plate, look at the choices first before you start filling your plate and take only what you need to feel satisfied.

  9. Give a gift of health that will last the whole year. Some ideas are: an exercise ball for stretching; a yoga video and mat; golf lessons; some light weights for strength training; or a pedometer for someone who enjoys walking.

  10. Track your eating and activity level over the holiday season to help you stay on track. Dietitians of Canada EATracker at is a convenient and easy to use tool. Make these healthy living tips part of your routine the whole year round - not just for the holidays.