Cook and bake in single servings.
Often it’s not the holiday foods, but the portions that send calorie intake through the roof. Instead of using large casserole dishes, use oven-safe ramekins that hold ½ to 1 cup of food. Fill them with baked side dishes like sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, or stuffing. When your servings are pre-measured, it eliminates the temptation to scoop large portions onto your plate.
Go heavy on the vegetables.
Adding extra vegetables is a good way to fill up and improve the nutrition of your meal with fewer calories. Add extras to salads like chopped broccoli, sliced bell peppers, and sliced cabbage. Add diced mushrooms or shredded carrots to stuffing, and mix finely chopped cauliflower into casseroles.
Limit your choices.
When there are too many choices, it is tempting to try a little of every dish. This results in an overflowing plate of generous bites. Plan a holiday meal like you would any other. Select two vegetables or fruits, a protein source, and a grain. Of course, these dishes may be dressed up for the holidays, but stick with only four to five separate dishes. You will be able to taste all of the options and still keep the portions and calories under control.
Take a water break.
Put the focus on the special food and skip the high calorie drinks. Sipping on water instead of sweet tea and soda can drastically reduce your calorie intake. Drinking water between courses and between cocktails can also help to fill you up and keep you hydrated, lessening the effects of the alcohol and excess sodium.
Don’t pass up true treats.
"Eat and enjoy" is advice not shared often enough during the holiday season. The holidays bring special foods that you eat only once a year. Pass on more common items like rolls and mashed potatoes. Take one serving of special holiday foods and enjoy every bite. Forcing yourself to pass up on true treats will only make you feel deprived and that is no way to spend a healthy holiday season.
Practice mindful eating.
Planning, tending to guests, and bustling conversations can be distracting. When it is time to join the table, keep mindful eating high on your priority list. Eat slowly and focus on the flavor of the food. Put your fork down between bites and take sips of water. These small changes will slow your eating, help you enjoy your meal, and keep you aware of your hunger level.
Take on new traditions.
Special family recipes will always be part of the holidays, but making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle may mean that it's time to start a few new traditions. Delicious food doesn't have to be loaded with calories, fat, and sodium. While the average Thanksgiving meal contains 4,500 calories, the 3-course healthy holiday meal listed below is under 710 calories. It also has a fraction of the fat and sodium of a typical holiday meal, but with all of the traditional flavor.
Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Feta (166 calories)
Almond Dijon Turkey Cutlets (206 calories)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pomegranate (84 calories)
Carrot, Chickpea, and Farro Salad with Thyme (157 calories)
Spiced Crustless Pumpkin Pie (96 calories)