Dietitian-approved tips for a healthy holiday season

MultiCare Health SystemDecember 11, 2013 

The holiday season is a time to celebrate – with food, among other things. Even if you’re trying to take good care of yourself, you can still enjoy your favorite foods and traditions.

Try to make healthy choices, but don’t obsess about food during the holidays. Use your mental energy to focus on the reason for the season, and truly enjoy friends and family.

MultiCare Health System dietitians have assembled the following tips to help you make it through the season in good conscience. We’ve compiled some ideas for boiling, baking and gravy making — heart-healthy style.

“Holiday food is often higher in calories and may contain more fat and cholesterol than the foods we normally eat,” said Pamela Kramer, registered dietitian at MultiCare’s Covington Outpatient Nutrition Clinic. “That doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself — just practice moderation.”

When you need a little help staying on track, try these tips:

 • Indulge (in moderation): Be mindful as you eat and savor your favorite foods. If you have a craving, indulge, but do so in moderation. That will help to prevent a holiday bender.

 • The 20-minute rule: Our bodies are very effective at self-regulating hunger and fullness. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full. To avoid extra calories and low energy, don’t ignore internal cues that tell you it’s time to stop. Plus, everyone loves leftovers.

 • Liquid calories: Look out for calorie-dense and sugar-dense liquid calories like holiday punch, eggnog and alcohol. Choose water whenever possible.

 • Cut the fat and salt: If you’re preparing a meal, look for low-fat and low-sodium options. They make a big impact on the amount of calories, fat and sodium consumed in a holiday meal.

 • Keep your distance: Floating around the food table can trigger mindless eating. Instead of grazing, serve yourself a small plate. You’ll feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories.

 • Get out and go for a walk: Make it a goal to get 30 minutes of daily activity (all at once, or in 10-minute increments). That will help your body burn those extra calories you’ll be consuming.


When you make your favorite holiday dish, try to lower the fat and cholesterol with these substitutions.

 • Fat-free evaporated milk instead of cream in soups and sauces.

 • Fat-free, low-sodium broth instead of butter in mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables.

 • Applesauce or other pureed fruit instead of margarine, butter or oil in baked goods.

 • Egg whites or a cholesterol-free egg substitute instead of whole eggs for baked goods or casseroles.

 • Cornstarch blended into broth instead of pan drippings for gravy.

Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CD, is a wellness dietitian at the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living, which helps educate children and families in Pierce County about healthy lifestyle choices through programs such as “Ready, Set, Go! 5210” ( For questions, call 253-301-5095 or email

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