Multi Generation Family Celebrating With Holiday Meal

5 Tips to Help Maintain Health Goals During the Holidays

Cassie Cubilla CPT
Health Educator

The holiday season is upon us! During the holidays, I enjoy the delicious meals and desserts I share with my family, friends, and co-workers. As a personal trainer and a health educator, a conversation I have with many individuals is about keeping health in mind during the holidays. It is very common to feel nervous about sticking to goals, but I have put together a list of tips that can help ease those worries. Many of these tips involve being mindful, so be sure to check out the Poe Center’s blog post from last year about mindfulness during the holidays.

Family All Together At Holiday Dinner

1. Practice moderation

When you attend a holiday potluck, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices in front of you. Rebecca Bitzer MS, RD, shares with her clients that moderation comes from within. By listening to your body, you can determine what you are actually hungry for and what portion you need. On your own plate, this might look like smaller portions of different items so you can enjoy more variety. Challenge yourself to eat all five food groups during meal time – dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Another trick that Rebecca mentions is to try using smaller plates and bowls when eating.

2. Take walks with family or friends

Around this time of year, it is typical to have days off from work and school. During time off, I encourage you to stay physically active. This may look different for each person, but one idea is to take a walk after a meal. There are several benefits to walking after eating, such as maintaining blood sugar, improving digestion, and decreasing inflammation. Not only does a walk help the body physically, but spending quality time with family or friends can improve mental and emotional health.

Family Walking Through Fall Woodland

3. Eat typical portions throughout the day

There is a “trendy” approach to the holiday season that you may see on social media: “saving” calories for holiday mealtimes. Followers of this trend will skip all meals on a holiday to increase hunger, and “save” calories to eat one large holiday meal. This is not ideal. When you do not eat as you would on a typical day, your metabolism will drop to conserve energy. Then, at holiday mealtime, you will pile your plate full of food to satisfy the hunger and most likely overeat, which could make you feel ill or upend your health goals. Instead, Melissa Mitri MS RD recommends eating meals throughout the day as you normally would, with a focus on fruits, vegetables, protein, and water. 

4. Pass the veggies

One great way to stick to your nutrition goals is to include vegetables on your holiday plate. Whenever I have holiday meals with my family, I always try to bring a salad to have a veggie-packed option available. This year, I made a harvest salad with kale, mixed greens, sweet potatoes, celery, apples, nuts, feta, and a homemade dressing. Having a variety of ingredients in your salad keeps things exciting while also offering alternative side dishes. Use this recipe for a Winter Harvest Salad or mix in your favorite ingredients – there are so many possibilities and flavor combinations.

Homemade Autumn Apple Walnut Spinach Salad with Cheese and Cranberries

5. Enjoy holiday dishes year-round

No need to be afraid of holiday dishes, enjoying these foods can still fit in your nutrition goals. Melissa Mitri MS RD reminds her clients that a holiday meal will not hurt your progress. Having a rigid, “all or nothing” mentality can actually cause overindulging due to limiting yourself. Instead of making it a special occasion to only eat a certain food or dish at the holidays, remind yourself that you can always make the dish any day of the year. Ingredients to make your holiday favorite can be accessed throughout the year, and you can enjoy a delicious family favorite whenever you want. 


The Poe Center values healthy habits through nutrition education for all ages during all times of the year. Remember that a balanced diet still includes your favorite foods with plenty of nutrient-dense options, and you can keep those goals throughout the holiday season. We have several programs and resources that introduce MyPlate, a great way to understand the different food groups and how to choose options to benefit your health. 

As you spend time with your loved ones this holiday season, remember to keep up with your health goals by enjoying meals, staying mindful and present, and being active with friends and family. 

Featured Program: Healthy POEtential

Healthy POEtential is four-session family education series which promotes healthy habits to adults and their families. This informative and interactive program covers:

  • Nutrition and physical activity basics.
  • In depth discussion around food groups, reading food labels and portion sizes.
  • How to get the most out of your food budget.
  • A virtual “Grocery Store Tour”.

Each 60 minute session involves taste testing a healthy snack, a short interactive lesson and a quick energizer!

Program Participants: Adults
Program Length: Four 60-Minute sessions

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Featured Resource:

Learn how to eat healthy with MyPlate! Remember the food pyramid? Meet MyPlate, the official symbol of the five food groups. Learn how to make MyPlate work for you.

Learn all about MyPlate