Your Guide to Balanced Holiday Eating

The following is a guest post from Jessica, wellness coordinator at Diplomat.


Being the wellness coordinator gives me a bad rap. Everyone thinks I’m the fun police. People walk past me with food, avoiding eye contact and yelling, “Please don’t judge me for eating (insert unhealthy food).” Don’t get me wrong; I do eat healthy, and I love a good lentil salad. But my love for ice cream and pizza is outrageous.

Nutrition has always been a struggle for me. As I talked about in my first post, I really had to teach myself about fueling my body instead of reaching for what was easiest.

My parents were both picky eaters. The only vegetables I ate as a child were green beans and corn—not the best ones if you ask me. I didn’t eat a Brussels sprout until I was 27 years old, and now that’s one of my favorite side dishes!


brussels-sprouts-865315_1920Since healthy eating was difficult, I figured I would study it. I decided that I was going to get my degree in exercise physiology and minor in dietetics. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about nutrition.

One of the best things I ever read was, “If it doesn’t have a mother or it doesn’t grow from the ground, don’t eat it.” When I read that statement, it was like a light went on and everything fell into place. So I made a plan that if it didn’t grow from the ground or have a mother, I wasn’t eating it.

Real food equals real results.

I ate real food with real ingredients—nothing with high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, or hydrogenated vegetable oil. I ate fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmers market, and I actually felt amazing.

After a week, my skin cleared, my energy levels rose, and I was sleeping sleeps I dreamt about in my sleep!

I studied carbs, proteins, and fats. I learned how many calories are in a pound (3,500). I realized that if I wanted to reduce my weight, I would have to decrease my caloric intake by roughly 500 calories per day. I cannot tell you how many hiccups I struggled with along the way and all the foods I ate that I thought were healthy. All this time, I just needed to eat real food.

taco-1018962_1920Now, I know what you’re thinking: Jessica, tacos do not fit these guidelines. And you’re right; I’d say fast-food tacos aren’t going to cut it nutritionally. But if you bought organic taco shells made from actual corn (not flour), cooked chicken that was raised on a farm, and sliced that tomato from your garden, then you have got yourself a meal!

Balance is key. You can eat pizza, tacos, and ice cream, but make sure it’s real and has real ingredients. And make sure you’re getting to the gym.

If you do eat those amazingly tasty processed items, balance it out the next few days with vegetables and lean protein. I think one of the biggest misconceptions of dieting is that you have to eat salads all the time and be boring.

With the holidays around the corner, here’s some advice on a little thing I call “Project Zero,” meaning you’ll maintain your weight throughout the holidays. Let’s face it, we are not going to skimp out on yummy turkey, pumpkin pie, or good wine. But you can enjoy your favorite festive foods without gaining weight.


Here’s what I do to help me stay fit during the holidays:

  • Start your day with a morning pick-me-up. Starting your day off with exercise ensures you will make better decisions all day. If I work out in the morning, I think twice about dessert because I don’t want that workout to go to waste.
  • Eat the things you love … in moderation. I love pumpkin pie and deviled eggs, but I do not love what it does to my waistline. So I moderate. I will eat a tiny slice of pie and one deviled egg to stave off cravings, and I still get to eat the things I enjoy.
  • Avoid saving calories for later. I hear a lot of people say, “I am not going to eat all day so I can binge at dinner.” Please don’t do this. You are slowing down your metabolism, and when you are starving, your brain demands fuel. You’ll end up eating way more than you could ever imagine. So please eat a sensible breakfast and lunch before the big Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Be flexible. If you cannot get to your yoga class or it’s too cold to run outside, work out in the comfort of your own home. Even 15 minutes is better than nothing, and it’s all you need to keep up with your fitness routine. Jumping rope can burn more than 150 calories in 15 minutes, and you can do that almost anywhere.
  • Leave the leftovers at Grandma’s. The day after a holiday, I stay clear of leftovers. Instead, I like to drink a chamomile detox tea and eat low-sodium foods like cucumbers, Greek yogurt, and salmon. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
  • Choose healthy alternatives. There are plenty of alternatives to all recipes. Love mashed potatoes? Try cauliflower mash. It’s healthier than the spuds and still tastes great. Or try veggie deviled eggs, which use Greek yogurt and veggies for a guilt-free snack!


Enjoy the holidays!


The information herein may not be construed as medical advice. The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. It should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. It is best to obtain medical recommendations from your physician.