Celebrate the Season With These Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Healthy Holiday Eating

‘Tis the season for holiday dinners and parties, and with them, plenty of opportunities to overeat.

While a few extra treats aren’t a cause for concern, going overboard on festive foods—and extending that behavior into the new year—can lead to weight gain, which in turn may increase your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, according to clinical nutritionist Candice Schreiber, RD, CSO, LD, from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center — James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

“Don’t feel guilty or be too hard on yourself if you overindulge once or twice during the holidays—It’s human nature.” Schreiber says. “Instead, be mindful of what you eat and drink and try and limit the number of times you overindulge. Don’t let it become an everyday occurrence during the holidays and beyond.”

Here are some healthy habits that can help you enjoy the tastes of the holiday (or any) season without the negative consequences:

Build a Healthy Plate

Begin your meal with something light and healthy, like a salad or a broth-based soup. This adds some nutritional value and can reduce how much you eat next. When you do load up your main plate, don’t forget the veggies, which can have benefits that last long after the leftovers are gone.

“Try and make your plate half plant-based foods, one-quarter starches and one-quarter meat,” Schreiber says, “Non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, green beans and Brussel sprouts, may protect against cancer.”

Not So Many Nitrates

Avoid or limit your consumption of processed meats, which contain nitrates that have been shown to increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

Slow Down

It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register the fact that your stomach is full. So if you eat fast, you may eat a lot more.

“Savor and enjoy each bite and think about how it tastes—the flavors and textures,” Schreiber says. This will slow you down and help you stop eating when you’re satisfied and before you’re stuffed and uncomfortable.

Take a Hike

Exercise, such as a walk after a meal, a 5K turkey trot run or a JamesCare for Life exercise class, can help offset your increased holiday calorie intake. Exercise can also help reduce holiday stress and anxiety, and boost your endorphin level. “

Physical activity in any form can reduce the risk of cancer,” Schreiber says. “So try and be more active and limit your sedentary behaviors.”

Drink Less

Beer, wine and spirits are high in calories and can lead to health problems down the line if consumed too often.

“Alcohol is linked to several types of cancer, so it’s best to avoid or limit how much you drink,” Schreiber says.

Cooking tip: Schreiber suggests substituting some healthier ingredients when a recipe allows for it to reduce calories and add nutrients during the holidays and year-round.

Instead of bread crumbs, which are highly processed, use rolled oats. Instead of cream, try fat-free half-and-half or evaporated milk. Go with brown rice rather than white rice. And use half the recommended amount of sugar called for in a recipe, adding in a little cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg to compensate.

Schreiber, a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition, leads a free monthly lunch & learn sponsored by JamesCare for Life that teaches patients and their caregivers about a wide range of oncology nutrition topics.