Nutritional Holiday Season


Everyone gets excited for the delicious treats that the holiday season brings. Just thinking about having a slice of delicious pumpkin pie can get your mouth watering! What about having a second, or even third slice?

It’s easy to go overboard with unhealthy foods during the holidays, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Local experienced nutritionist and Senior Manager of Health and Social Services for the RGV Food Bank Sandra Gonzalez is sharing practical tips to avoid regrets from overindulging.

Enjoy Holiday Foods with a Plan

Gonzalez has a realistic perspective when it comes to food and the holidays.

“Holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends,” she said. “Of course we want to eat all the traditional foods at the moment, but we need to set a goal for ourselves during the days, weeks, and months ahead.”

She went on to say “we should allow small indulgences” — but also make other sacrifices, like refraining from sugary drinks, to compensate for the treats we really don’t want to give up.

Counting Your Calories During the Holidays

Maintaining your health has a lot to do with calorie consumption. Generally, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men, but that can vary depending on your current height, weight, and fitness goals.

“Counting calories can help you identify eating patterns that you may need to modify,” Gonzalez said.

She recommends using an app to keep track of your calories as you eat throughout the day.  If you don’t want to use an app, it’s helpful to at least be aware of holiday foods with the highest calorie count, especially when it comes to sugar and fat.

Here, we’ve broken down some of the most popular holiday treats from most calories to least per serving to help you plan ahead.

  • Sweet potato casserole – 628 calories (333 calories from fat)
  • Pecan pie – 503 calories (30 grams of sugar)
  • Fruit cake – 300 – 500 calories (22 to 50 grams of sugar)
  • Sugar cookie – 160 calories (20 grams of sugar)
  • 1-inch cube of fudge – 90 calories (16 grams of sugar)

Don’t Show Up Too Hungry

You might think skipping breakfast will help save some calories and grant you permission to indulge more in holiday treats at the office dinner party. However, if you show up with a growling stomach, you’re much less likely to make smart choices with what you reach for to satisfy that hunger.

Sandra says it’s best to stick to a healthy diet during the holiday season without the “mentality of starting again after the holidays.” This means enjoying healthy, satisfying meals around holiday treats so that the treats are just that — a treat and not a foundational part of your daily diet just because the season has changed.

Bring Your Own Treats to Share

“By preparing a recipe in a different way or by substituting ingredients, a recipe can be made healthier,” Gonzalez said.

For example, in some recipes, applesauce can be substituted for butter and a mashed banana can be substituted for sugar. Pinterest is a great place to search for healthy alternatives to holiday classics. When you bring your own dish that’s been modified to make it more healthy, you can confidently enjoy it with your friends guilt-free!

When You Feel Good, You Can Enjoy More

Have you ever over-indulged in food on a holiday and then ended up feeling lethargic and regretful the rest of the day? Follow Gonzalez’s advice to avoid that mistake this year.

Remember, food isn’t the only thing to enjoy this holiday season. Time with friends and family is just as important, and you’ll enjoy that time much more if you feel good. So choose your indulgences wisely, consider substituting some healthier ingredients in classic holiday recipes, and use a calorie counting app to improve your awareness of what you’re consuming.

When you feel good, you can enjoy more!

Jillian Cameron