Celebrate healthy holiday eating

Between potlucks, parties and other festivities, the holiday season can be a difficult time to maintain healthy eating habits. However, with some planning and moderation, you can enjoy holiday treats without sacrificing your health.

The American Institute for Cancer Research provides these recommendations to help you enjoy holiday festivities in a healthy, cancer-preventative manner:


  • Two-thirds of your plate should include fruits, vegetables and grains, such as green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries, green salad, brown rice or quinoa. Reserve the remaining third for your choice of protein.
  • Use smaller plates or don't completely fill a large plate.
  • For sugary holiday treats like cookies, candy and desserts, take small portions - bite-size, handfuls, slivers - and savor the taste without overindulgence.

Read more about portion sizes in my previous blog post.

Fill two-thirds of your plate with fruits and vegetables, which contain plant compounds called phytochemicals that help your body fight disease.

Fill two-thirds of your plate with fruits and vegetables, which contain plant compounds called phytochemicals that help your body fight disease.

Party and potluck guidelines

  • Before going to a party, eat a healthy snack so you are not starving when you arrive and tempted to overeat.
  • If you are hosting a party, be sure to include some lower-calorie foods, such as fruit salads, veggie platters and lean meats.
  • Try not to congregate near the food. Position yourself across the room from the food and focus on socializing rather than eating.
  • Survey all the food options before filling your plate. Decide what foods are worth eating and which you can ignore.
  • Choose to eat holiday specialty foods instead of the food you can have any time of the year, and enjoy it in mindful portions.


  • Many holiday beverages like eggnog, punches and mixed drinks are calorie-laden, with some containing as many as 500 calories. Choose plain or sparkling water flavored with fruit or juice instead. Limit alcohol, sodas and sugary drinks that add calories and can lead to weight gain. Also keep in mind that studies show alcohol can increase risk of several cancers.
  • Check out this AICR article that contains information about choosing alcoholic beverages and recipe ideas for lighter, healthier drinks.

In her article, Joyful, Competent Holiday Eating, registered dietitian Robyn Kievit recommends these strategies for managing your weight during the holiday season:

Track your food intake with online programs and Smartphone apps. Recommended websites are http://www.sparkpeople.com, http://www.fitday.com and http://www.livestrong.com.

Schedule exercise into your week. Plan to go on a morning run the day of a feast, or take a walk with family after you eat. If you have a regular exercise routine, do your best not to skip it during the holidays.

Remember that gaining a pound or two during the holidays is not a significant problem, but adding a few pounds each year can lead to health issues over time. Research shows that being overweight or obese increases cancer risk and other chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

For help creating a healthy eating plan, Willamette Valley Cancer Institute patients can schedule a free appointment with me. Visit our website for more information and call 541-681-4945 to schedule an appointment.
Wishing you all happy and healthy holidays!

By Shelly Kokkeler, certified specialist in oncology nutrition

Posted December 21, 2011


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