Ask the Experts: Holiday Eating the MyPlate Way

Posted by Karen Kafer, RDN @ 10:54 AM


The holidays are a season of joy, time spent with loved ones and eating lots of delicious foods! However, the “most wonderful time of the year” can also spell unhealthy eating habits such as overindulgence and a lack of a balanced, nutritious diet.  Avoiding some of the pitfalls of the holidays can be as simple as remembering MyPlate to ensure you are getting a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains , lean protein and low-fat or fat-free dairy with every meal. We asked seven health professionals to share their expert tips on making their holiday meal the MyPlate way. Read on to learn how you can enjoy great holiday foods while making the most of your calories.

Balance the foods you consume

Rob Masterson, Clinical Dietitian and Chief Blogger for explains that finding balance to him is:

Balance in your portions, your calories, and the types of food you’re eating.  You can achieve balance by avoiding overeating and by choosing foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein over less nutrient-rich foods like cakes, cookies, and other sweets that are commonly more abundant during the holiday season.

Registered dietitian Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN and founder of Nutritioulicious keeps her diet balanced by first surveying the landscape before filling her plate:

Before you fill your plate at a holiday party or buffet, look around to see what is being offered and then limit yourself to 3 to 4 items, making sure that at least one is a vegetable, one is a whole grain, and one is a lean protein. And then for dessert, stick to one more indulgent treat and fill up on some fresh fruit assuming it’s offered. This way you’re not overeating and you’re getting a balanced meal.

Stick to your regular eating routines

Maryann Tomovich Jacobson, MS, RD, and founding editor of offers simple advice for the holiday season:

Instead of picking on food all day long, sit down and enjoy regular snacks and meals.  While some of your eating will be more indulgent with parties and special meal days, if you keep your routine of eating with items from all the food groups (with dairy of course!), it will help you avoid overstuffing.  And the holidays will come and go enriching your memories, not your waistline.

Plate your food

Whether it’s passed around hor’deurves or snacking while you’re cooking, another common eating practice during the holiday season is to snack on food without ever placing it on a plate, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of “Read It Before You Eat It” and media spokesperson in New York.

To save calories and post-holiday unwanted pounds, be sure that you plate your meals and snacks so that you can take a closer look at and be more responsible for the foods you are actually consuming.

Hosting a party?

We all know the challenges in hosting a party and offering foods that tastes great and are nutrient-dense.  Fortunately, Dr. Melina Jampolis, board certified physician nutrition specialist and author of The Busy Person’s Guide to Permanent Weight Loss has shared three cooking tips that can save you from encountering any unwanted calories:

Slim down sauces, dips and salad dressing with low fat or fat free dairy.  This can help you cut calories from solid fats, which should be limited, while boosting low fat or fat free dairy intake.  One of my favorites  – a lower fat salad dressing with 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp of plain non-fat yogurt and 2 tsp of olive oil (serves 2).  It is less than ½ the calories of regular balsamic vinaigrette and the yogurt gives it a delicious, slightly thicker consistency that is very satisfying.

Make a vegetable dip with plain low fat yogurt instead of sour cream or slim down your Alfredo sauce with low fat milk and light cream cheese.

Makeover baked goods by replacing all or part of the oil with apple sauce or canned pumpkin and replacing ½ the flour with whole wheat flour – you get a 2 for 1 benefit by boosting whole grain and fruit intake!

Additionally, Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N and author at The Diet Diva describes how low-fat and fat-free cheese and vegetables can help you meet your holiday nutrition goals:

What doesn’t taste better with cheese?  As a native from Wisconsin, I’m always looking for opportunities to add cheese to anything and everything on my plate!  Cheese provides not only good taste but protein and calcium, too!

Make vegetables the center of attention–not just a side afterthought.  Look to salads, casseroles, and fruit-based desserts to take center stage to assist in filling half your plate with fruits and veggies.

Start with breakfast and stay hydrated

With the holiday bustle, it is easy to forget the most important meal of the day.  Also, with adult beverages a plenty, dehydration can certainly derail your holiday plans. Robin Plotkin, RD, LD explains:

As temping as it is to rush out the door without breakfast, don’t do it! Grab something to get you jump started for the day-it could be a simple as a hardboiled egg, a slice of cheese with whole wheat crackers, a Greek yogurt with high fiber cereal or even a handful of nuts. This will keep you on track and you’ll be less tempted to overeat when you do get a chance to sit down for meal. 

With spirits and libations flowing this time of year, it’s easy for dehydration to occur. Start by drinking a big glass of water when brushing your teeth in the morning and keep sipping all day long. At holiday parties, stick to one or two drinks, then switch to seltzer water with lime or seltzer with a splash of cranberry or grape juice.

While the holiday season can bring about its share of stress, hopefully these great tips will help you have a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday season.  Tell Us: Which tip did you find the most helpful? Do you have a tip of your own to add?  Happy holidays and have a safe start to 2012!


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