Baylor College of Medicine

Close up of spoons, forks and knives

Enjoy holiday treats without getting stuffed

Dipali Pathak


Houston, TX -

Food plays a big part in many holiday traditions, so it can be tricky to control portions and keep from overeating during the holiday season. A registered dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine offers some tips to enjoy the meal without getting stuffed.

“Holidays are times when we tend to ‘eat with our eyes’ because everything looks so delicious,” said Roberta Anding, registered dietitian with Baylor. “Since it’s a special time, you can either take smaller portions of foods or think of which ones are your favorites and truly holiday specials. For example, you might be able to have mashed potatoes any time but your grandmother’s amazing cornbread dressing is a once-a-year treat. In this case, choose what you love and skip the other foods.”

According to Anding, satiety, or the feeling of fullness, is complex, so it’s easy to miss the cue. Studies have shown that drinking low or no-calorie fluids before a meal can reduce intake, and fiber and protein also can help you recognize fullness.

“This means turkey and some vegetables would be good and delicious choices on your plate,” she said.

Anding suggests simple behavioral strategies to help prevent overeating:

  • Slow down the rate at which you eat
  • Learn your own cues for fullness
  • Avoid alcohol, which can disrupt your hunger and satiety and dim your resolve to avoid overeating
  • If there are new foods you want to try, substitute them for foods you can easily give up. For example, if there is a new grain or rice dish you want to try, eliminate the dinner roll

At the end of the day, overeating can happen and if it does, Anding suggests letting it go.

“Don’t attempt to exercise the calories away at one time. For most families, holidays are a multiday affair and not just an event. This means you can work on portion control and increasing daily physical activity, which are habits that can help with a lifestyle goal rather than a diet goal,” Anding said.

She also suggests finding activities with family and friends during the holidays that don’t involve food. These can include family outings, preparing for the next holiday, playing board games or any other activity that can make the holiday special.

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