Registered Dietitian provides tips for healthy holiday eating

The holiday season is upon us, which for many means holiday parties, overcrowded schedules, and extra indulgent meals and treats.

Farrah Wigand, a Registered Dietitian with DHEC and a Certified Specialist in Obesity Weight Management, has provided a few healthy eating and lifestyle gifts to help you lighten up your holidays.

Stay active

· Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that reduce our feeling of pain and make people happy. It’s like the spirit of Christmas! Ignite your body’s natural calorie burn by aiming for 10,000 steps every day.

· Make time for exercise by marking time on your calendar. If you don’t have a full 45-60 minutes, divide your exercise into 2-3, 15-minute sessions.

· Move more and sit less throughout the day. Consider keeping items to file out of reach or visit a co-worker in-person rather than calling them on the phone. Just be sure to wear your mask!

· Outside of work, park further away from the destination when holiday shopping, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and dance to your favorite holiday song at parties.

Avoid skipping meals

· Hunger regulation, metabolism, energy level, mood, blood sugar, and breathing are all negatively affected by skipping meals.

· Research shows Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores are higher in individuals who consume 3 meals per day in comparison to 2 meals per day.

· Snack smart in response to physical hunger. It’s common to experience physical hunger after 4-hours without a meal or a snack. Choose whole foods containing protein, fiber, and whole grains (e.g., nuts, yogurt, popcorn) to enhance satisfaction and diet quality. A few of my favorites include:

1. Crunchy — raw vegetable sticks, nuts, seeds, whole grain crackers, apple

2. Creamy — low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, hummus, avocado

3. Sweet — chopped fresh fruit or frozen fruit, yogurt, 8-ounce glass of milk (1%, skim, unsweet soy, or unsweet almond)

4. Savory/Salty — cube or slice of 2% milk-based or low-fat cheese, roasted chickpeas, ¼ cup of nuts, nut butter, ½ whole-wheat English muffin or 6-inch tortilla with tomato sauce/veggies/mozzarella cheese

Be selective

Many traditional holiday foods like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and other desserts, tend to be high in carbohydrates and added sugar. You don’t have to sample everything that is offered.

Instead of eating the same dinner roll and potatoes that you eat any time of year, focus on dishes that are more “special” (like that stuffing) or that you only have this time of year.

Lighten up your offerings

You can lighten up the holiday feast without sacrificing taste by swapping ingredients to make appetizers and dishes.

· Replace an egg with 2 egg whites to help reduce dietary cholesterol.

· Replace 1 cup of butter in baking with 1 cup of applesauce to reduce saturated fat and reduce calories by 1450!

· Replace the sweetened condensed milk with low-fat or fat free sweetened condensed milk.

· Replace sour cream with plain nonfat Greek yogurt.

· Choose reduced-fat or fat-free cheeses for salads and casseroles.

If you are a party guest, prioritize and socialize

· Socialize and settle into the festivities before seeking out the buffet.

· Placement is everything! Move your socializing away from the buffet tables or appetizer trays. This will minimize the unconscious nibbling.

Be good to yourself this holiday season by going light on food and lightening up your metabolism by making time for staying active, being selective, and swapping those offerings. With these gifts, you can celebrate a healthier you and look forward to a bright new year. Check out our Eating Healthy in a SNAP recipe book to keep your holiday work week on track and start your new year off right! For more information, you may also visit or

Source: Farrah Wigand, SNAP-Education Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with the Division of Public Health Nutrition Practice and SNAP-Education Program, Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

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