Eat This, Not That, This Holiday Season

By Sara Bondell - December 07, 2023

The holidays bring many opportunities for gifts, gatherings and delicious foods. When it comes to holiday meals and treats, is it OK to overindulge?

Dr. Sylvia Crowder, Health Outcomes and Behavior Program
Dr. Sylvia Crowder, Health Outcomes and Behavior Program

“Indulging is different than binging. Indulging means mindfully eating the foods you enjoy,” said Dr. Sylvia Crowder, a nutrition researcher in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Health Outcomes and Behavior Program. “The holidays often feature foods we might not get to enjoy at other times of the year, so don’t feel guilty when you enjoy your favorite foods with family and friends.”

Crowder recommends sticking to a healthy diet 80% of the time during the holidays to find a good balance. Be mindful when you’re eating. Put your fork down between bites to slow down and stop eating when you are full.

Cancer patients and survivors also shouldn’t stress too much about what they’re eating at special holiday meals.

“Your overall dietary pattern — what you eat over the course of weeks and months — is more important than one day of overindulging, particularly when it comes to long-term health,” Crowder said. “Focus on eating healthfully most of the time so you can really enjoy special holiday treats.”

Crowder offers these healthy tips to keep in mind when prepping for your holiday meals:

  • Think about healthy substitutions that can boost fiber content, like switching out white bread for whole-grain breads and rolls.
  • Preparation is key! It’s easy to capture the flavor of foods without adding extra calories through broiling, grilling and steaming compared to frying.
  • Be mindful of portion size.

Here are some healthy substitutions you can try this holiday season:

Try a Cranberry Fizz Mocktail: 3 ounces sparkling water, 3 ounces cran-apple juice, splash of lemon or lime juice. Add some cranberries on a skewer and top the rim with cinnamon sugar to make it aesthetic and ready for the holiday party.

Charcuterie boards
Limit processed meats on your board, such as pepperoni and salami. Instead, focus on fresh vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, seeds, whole-grain bread and crackers, seaweed, and fermented foods like pickled vegetables and olives. Add some chickpeas, hard boiled eggs, or tempeh and tofu for additional proteins and focus on healthy “dips” like fruit compotes, hummus and a little honey.

Deep fried turkey
Try a grilled or roasted turkey instead. Be cautious of eating the skin as it is high in saturated fat.

Pecan pie
Pecan pie is typically high in sugar and calories. Try sweet potato casserole (sweet potatoes are low in calories and a good source of fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium) with pecans and a little marshmallow fluff for an extra sweet treat.

Christmas cookies
Enjoy Christmas “sweet treats” with fresh fruits and vegetables, such as Strawberry Santas (one strawberry cut with high protein frozen yogurt) or Reindeer Sticks (a piece of celery covered in almond butter, a fresh raspberry reindeer nose and a pretzel antler).

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Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer More Articles


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