Alberta Cancer Foundation

Avoid looking like Santa this holiday season


During the weeks before the holidays, there are many chances to have holiday treats at work, special events or at home. It can be challenging to eat healthy when you’re constantly exposed to foods that are high in fat and calories.

By following one or more of these tips, you can enjoy a healthier festive season and a few treats along the way!

Tip 1: Go in with a game plan. It is often said that motivation is not a feeling, but a decision. Simply deciding to have a plan is the first step to making healthier choices for yourself. Think about the days or weeks ahead. Do you know that there will be sweets or potlucks at work, or a few parties that you will be attending? If so, create an eating plan. For example, tell yourself: “When my co-worker brings in a tray of holiday cookies at work, I will limit myself to one cookie per day.”

Choose healthier appetizers like vegetables with low-fat dip, whole grain crackers and hummus, and fruit or lean meats, like chicken or plain shrimp.

Tip 2: Choose healthier beverages like water or low-fat milk whenever possible. Avoid drinks with added sugar and calories. Science tells us that drinks do not help us to feel full. By avoiding drinks with sugar and fat, you can reduce your calorie intake without feeling deprived. The calories in holiday beverages (such as apple cider, eggnog, hot chocolate, regular pop and punches) add up quickly. Alcohol calories can add up quickly, too. Liqueurs and mixed drinks are also higher in sugar and/or fat. Adding lemon or lime juice to soda or mineral water can add interest and flavour, without the added fat.

Tip 3: Choose healthier appetizers like vegetables with low-fat dip, whole grain crackers and hummus, and fruit or lean meats, like chicken or plain shrimp. Limit yourself to one or two higher-fat, higher-calorie appetizers. Some appetizers are small in size but can pack quite a few calories. Examples of appetizers that are especially high-calorie are fried appetizers such as calamari or shrimp, or higher-fat meats like ribs or chicken wings. Although cheese is packed with calcium, most cheeses are also higher in fat. Finger foods in tart shells or pastry are, too. Creamy dips are often made with mayonnaise and sour cream; these can cause calories to climb. Nuts provide healthy fats, but most of the calories in nuts come from fat, so the calories add up quickly. Nuts roasted in oil (or covered in chocolate!) are even higher in calories.

Tip 4: Plan a healthy plate. You can use this tip at a restaurant, potluck or dinner at home. Choose a smaller plate, if available, to help keep your portions smaller. Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables and fruit. Choosing vegetables with little or no added fats or sauces keeps the calories lower. Vegetables and fruit add fibre, which can help you feel full longer. For the meat portion of your plate, choose healthier options such as fish, lean cuts of meat, or beans, peas or lentils.

Tip 5: Keep higher-calorie foods like nuts, baked items and chocolate out of sight. We are more likely to eat food if we see it and/or are near it. If you keep the sweets or snack foods away from your workspace or in a cupboard at home, you are not as likely to eat them.

Try one or all of these tips so you can enjoy a healthier holiday season!