Back Away From the Holiday Buffet: Tips to help you get through the season

October 26, 2017


It doesn't have to be this way. That "ahh, what the heck, I'll just finish it because it's the holidays" moment I'm talking about when faced with a pile of your aunt's renowned creamy potato casserole. I say "Put down the fork!" and practice some of these useful survival tips during the holiday season. 


Whether it's one party or weekend after weekend of get togethers, incorporating a few of these tips can help you eat healthier AND still enjoy your favorite holiday foods. So you don't feel overwhelmed, practice just a handful of them!  You can even use these tips throughout the year! 


Make sure to check out my lower sugar cranberry relish recipe I've included below. I swoon over it's tart, yet sweet flavor this time of year. I have high hopes you will, too.


Here are some ideas to try next time you are at a gathering:


Appetizers & Cocktails

  • Watch out for a little nibble here and there…it adds up quickly! A handful of almonds is about 170 calories, a handful of chips is about 140 calories, and a handful of chex mix is about 140 calories. Wash it down with a regular soda (another 140 calories) equals almost 600 calories with little nutritional value. Snack smarter by having fresh veggies and dips, veggie centered appetizers, shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit.

  • Use a small plate for appetizers instead of mindlessly grabbing items. You can lose a sense of how much you have had.

  • Be mindful of liquid calories. Instead of a 8 oz serving of eggnog, try the light version or have it out of a small glass cutting the serving in half to save 150 calories. Or, go for a small glass of warmed apple cider instead!

  • Specialty cocktails can make an appearance during this season. Don’t be fooled! They tend to be loaded with sugar and extra calories. Try to limit your portion to one, then switch to light beer, small glass of wine or sparkling wine, or vodka soda with a splash of juice. If you are craving a cocktail, use club soda in place of tonic or try diet options. Remember, 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men is the daily allowance. 

  • Avoid snacking out of bowls as this leads to higher fat, calorie, and salt intake. Instead, take a small handful and strike up a conversation with someone you haven’t talked to in a while. This surely with save you from lingering around the food!

  • When it comes to dips, choose salsa and bean based over creamy ones like crab and artichoke to save  around 50 calories per serving.


The Main Event

  • Before you dig in, take a few seconds and skim over the available selections so you can make a better choice and still indulge in 2-3 options you can’t do without!

  • On Thanksgiving, opt for white meat with no skin to save over 100 calories per serving.

  • It’s okay to say, “No thank you” when offered seconds.

  • Keep an eye out for creamy dishes as these are high in fat and salt. Keep your portions smaller than what you would normally take and savor the flavor.

  • Holiday dinners tend to be heavy on starch and meats. Change it up and bring a dish that emphasizes non starchy vegetables like roasted chestnut and brussel sprouts or chilled asparagus in a vinaigrette dressing. 

  • Have little tastes of rich dishes so you still enjoy them, but leave it at that. Just a taste.

  • Bulk up half of your plate with vegetable focused options (watch for creamy and cheesy dishes) and focus on having a colorful plate. Break away from some holiday traditional foods. For example, instead of rack of lamb have a fish dish or instead of ham try tenderloin.

  • If you are the one making the meal, opt for lighter versions. Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream or whole milk over cream.

  • Need to bring a dish to the party? Make it a lighter choice so you know there is sure to be at least one healthy option.If you tend to over indulge with starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas, try tailoring back your portion size or choose only one that you really, really want.


The Finale 

  • Enjoy desserts but try to pick options that are smaller in size or fruit focused like bite sized cheesecake or baked apples.

  • A good rule of thumb when slicing pie is that the thickest part should be no larger than a business card.

  • Cut the dessert in half and stick to the half.

  • The crust of dessert can contain 2 tablespoons of butter or 200 calories. Eat the inside and trash the bottom to save calories. 

  • If you had your share of dessert, but are still eyeing the table, grab a tea or coffee and drink it the rest of the night. 

  • When baking, replace oil with unsweetened applesauce in recipes. This trick hasn't failed me yet!


Overall Guidance

  • Don’t save all your calories for the main event. Make sure to eat beforehand. You can choose to eat a lighter fare like greek yogurt and fruit, an egg and toast, vegetable soup, or a salad. When we save our calories, we tend to over eat because we are so hungry!

  • Focus on the people and activities rather then the buffet.

  • Set a goal to eat at least 2 different vegetables while at the party.

  • If you notice you are always hovering around the food, consciously make an effort to move somewhere else.

  • Scout out what you really want, and make sure to have it, but also load up on the fruit and veggie options.

  • Eat when you are hungry. Really. Don’t eat because you feel obligated or don’t want to offend someone. Tell them it looks great, and you may have some later if you get hungry.


I love to make my own cranberry relish or sauce as it saves on added sugar and tastes better. Below is a relish recipe that you will always find on my Thanksgiving table. You can mix it up by adding in walnuts, nutmeg, or ginger!



Tart Cranberry Orange Relish




1 orange + zest 

12 oz bag of cranberries

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon or another favorite holiday spice




Finely grate 2 teaspoons of orange zest. Cut away and discard peel, then cut orange sections free from membranes.


Pulse cranberries with zest, orange sections, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor until finely chopped. Cover and chill at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.










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