Guest Column: Healthy eating may require additional strategy around the holidays

Published 6:30 pm Sunday, December 17, 2017

Guest Column by Madeline Dahl

Around the holidays, it can be tough to manage or follow a healthy lifestyle. Overeating calorie-dense foods is a common occurrence around these seasons. With many holiday parties, office get-togethers and family celebrations, it can be difficult to not overindulge and treat yourself. Good news: you won’t have to give up those traditional holiday dishes. Here are eight strategies for you to prevent unwanted weight gain when overwhelmed with a variety of food choices.

Take a little of everything

Email newsletter signup

If you are not a fussy eater, trying a small spoonful of everything is always a fantastic way to indulge while consuming an appropriate amount of calories.

Madeline Dahl

Indulge wisely

If you have a favorite holiday food you wait for every year to enjoy at a special occasion it would be best to grab more of that dish and take less of another dish. Indulging in one favorite food is something that is manageable.   

Eat slowly.

Enjoying the company of your friends and family will allow you to eat more slowly. Eating slowly allows your body time to give you signals you are full.  So, start a conversion at the dinner table it will benefit you in more ways than one.

Don’t come hungry

Having a snack or even a small meal before going to your holiday celebration will prevent overeating. If you feel starved when arriving you will overconsume.

Freeze leftovers. Being able to take leftovers home will allow you to try all foods. You can try certain foods the next day or even the next week. Freezing foods will save money and is easy meal prep when stored in separate containers.

Use a smaller plate

Instead of the traditional 12-inch plate that can hold an enormous amount of food try a 9-inch plate. A smaller plate will lead you to put less food on your plate while making your plate look very full so you do not feel deprived. Smaller plate size leads to eating less at meals. 

Drink water

Sometimes hunger signals are mistaken for dehydration. Drinking water throughout the day and at the party may help you eat less.

Bring your own healthy dish

By bringing your own dish you know what ingredients were used and can easily assume the calories in each serving size. Putting a healthy twist on a traditional recipe is a great way to get family and friends involved and trying your recipes. Here is a recipe obtained from the USDA:

Harvest Delight


1 1/3 cups Fresh green apples, peeled, cored, diced 1/2”

1/3 cup Fresh carrots, peeled, sliced 1/4”

1 cup Fresh sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed 1”

1 cup Fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed 1/2”

1/3 cup Fresh red onions, peeled, diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Sea salt

1 teaspoon Fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon Fresh oregano, chopped

1 teaspoon Fresh sage, chopped

1 teaspoon Fresh rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon Fresh garlic, minced

3/4 tablespoon maple syrup

1 cup Fresh baby spinach, chopped

1/8 cup Dried cranberries, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 425 °F.

You may place diced apples in a small bowl of water with a squirt of lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Drain when ready to use.

Steam carrots in a steam basket over high heat for 10 minutes or until soft.

Toss potatoes, squash, carrots, and red onions in a large mixing bowl with olive oil and salt.

Line a large baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread vegetables evenly on baking pan. Roast vegetables in oven at 425 °F for 25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned. Turn vegetables once midway through roasting.

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, and garlic.

Remove vegetables from oven, lower heat to 400 °F. Add apple mixture to vegetables. Spread evenly. Return to the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until slightly tender.

Remove from oven. Drizzle with maple syrup and mix well. Return to oven.

Roast for 8 additional minutes at 400 °F until vegetables are fork-tender.

Remove vegetables from the oven and gently toss in spinach. Mix in cranberries. Serve hot.

Madeline Dahl is an Albert Lea graduate studying dietetics at the University of Wisconsin.