Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

12 tips for a healthier, guilt-free holiday season

NAIT registered dietitian explains how to cut holiday calories, not flavour 

Christmas is near and holiday parties, family gatherings and the extreme sporting event of last-minute shopping at the mall are well underway! As with any special occasion, it’s important to keep health goals in mind during the holidays, especially since we tend to celebrate for weeks on end. Keep these 12 tips in mind for a happy, healthy holiday season.

egg nog1. Don’t drink all your calories

'Tis the season for eggnog, but this rich beverage packs 350 calories per serving and that’s before the booze gets added.

2. Eat what you love, leave what you like

During holiday gatherings, we can feel obligated – or tempted – to eat everything offered to us. But if you don’t absolutely love something, don’t eat it. Eat the foods that are going to give you the most enjoyment.

3. Bring your own healthy dish to the party

There is never a shortage of sweets and treats at parties, so take the initiative and bring a healthy snack. That’s one way to guarantee there’s at least something healthy available.

4. Never arrive to a party ravenously hungry

Skipping meals and restricting food intake during the day is a recipe for disaster, which typically leads to excessive over-eating. Don’t try to save up your calories.

5. When it comes to calories, eat low to high

Veggies and fruit are low in calories and high in fibre, which takes up space in the stomach, helps you feel full and prevents over-indulgence on high-calorie foods all night.

eat from a plate to control calorie intake, says NAIT registered dietician Nick Creelman6. Socialize away from the snack table

We have all been there, reaching into the bowl of chocolates just after a massive meal, catching up on the hottest gossip. Catch up with your friends away from the snacks and avoid temptation.

7. Eat from a plate

Eating from a plate helps you keep track of what and how much you have eaten versus nibbling throughout the night.

8. Limit treats to 1 a day – max

If you’re going to eat treats like Santa eats cookies, don’t be surprised when your health goals go sideways. But it is the holidays and we all deserve treats! Find the foods you love most (remember tip 4) and enjoy them without going overboard.

9. Find time for fitness

Winter is a time when many folks are typically less active. But it’s important to try to get some activity every day, whether it’s going for a walk to enjoy Christmas lights, muscling through crowds of people holiday shopping, or playing outside in the snow with family.

substitute avocado for butter in baking to cut calories, says Nick Creelman, NAIT registered dietician10. Use avocado instead of butter when baking

‘Tis the season for baking! Avocado is similar in texture to butter and will provide the same desired product, only you are using a much healthier alternative!

11. Aim for balance

When having a less healthy meal or snack, aim to make it a little healthier. Instead of having a large slice of cheesecake for dessert, grab a smaller slice and pair it with some fresh fruit. This way you get the treats you want, but with a healthy component. It doesn’t always have to be the healthiest, but making it healthier keeps you on the right track.

12. Be guilt free

In the words of Frozen’s Elsa, “Let it go, let it go!” What good does it do to beat ourselves up for the occasional indulgence? Give yourself permission to enjoy some treats this year.

Happy holidays!


Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.