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Eat Well Through the Holidays: Tips to keep a balanced diet (even when you are surrounded by food)

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

By Abby Sanders

Most of us let our healthy habits slip around the holidays. Unless you’re that person who goes for a run after Thanksgiving dinner (making the rest of us feel guilty, by the way), you probably allow yourself a few extra helpings of mashed potatoes, because, hey - it’s Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or Mardi Gras.

And that’s ok! But for new and expecting moms, it’s even more important to maintain a consistent, healthy diet - even when everyone else is on their third slice of pecan pie.

Fortunately, you don’t have to give up a whole lot to stay healthy through the holidays. Here are some of my favorite tips to keep in mind, so you can still thoroughly enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without sending you and the little one on an epic sugar high.

Add color to your plate.

Fruits and veggies produce color based on the types of nutrients they have. So a wide variety of color means you’re getting the whole spectrum of nutritional value.

If your plate is a solid, potato-hued beige, then you should probably drop in some salad, cranberries, and green beans to make sure you’re maxing out on nutrients for you and baby.

When you’re the chef, sub out where you can.

Let’s just call it as it is: we’re going to eat plenty of sweets over the next two months. So when you’re cooking the meals, sub out heavy, fatty ingredients for lighter options. In most recipes, you can easily switch out one or two ingredients without sacrificing flavor.

Think of it as saving up your calories for when they really count! (Like mom’s sweet potatoes with marshmallows. There’s just no substitute for that.)

Try using:

● Applesauce instead of butter or oil

● A banana instead of an egg

● Whole wheat flour instead of white flour

● Vanilla extract instead of sugar

Eat small meals throughout the day.

It’s tempting to shortchange your meals leading up to a big holiday dinner. Why eat a granola bar now, when you’ll be enjoying an absolute smorgasbord of comfort food in a few short hours?

But you actually could be setting yourself back by doing that. It’s healthier to eat smaller meals, consistent meals throughout the day, so you continue to burn calories.

Just think: the last thing you want is to go into “calorie-saving mode” right when you sit down in front of a roast turkey that weighs more than you.

So allow yourself a healthy snack when you feel hungry. Remember, mamas need their calories: depending on your trimester, you should be taking in 1,800 - 2,400 calories per day. New moms who are breastfeeding should be eating even more: up to 2,700 calories. You’re eyeing up that baked ham for a reason!

Spread the love (and the leftovers).

You might have more self control than me. For that, I commend you. For the rest of us though, sometimes you just gotta get that plate of cookies out of sight to avoid a late night binge. Bring them into the office or drop them off with the neighbors. You’re doing a favor for yourself as much as for them!

Throw in some fiber.

Munch on some carrot sticks or celery before dinner. It’ll temper your hunger, so you’re not quite as likely to speed-eat your way through two bowls of stuffing. It doesn’t exactly counteract all the high-calorie food that’s to come, but it may help you digest it more efficiently.

Allow yourself to indulge a little.

It is the holidays after all. Enjoy it! Give yourself some slack. Choose one or two holiday dishes that you’ve been craving for the last 364 days, and enjoy a moderate helping without beating yourself up over it. Unless you’ve got a hankering for raw fish or organ meat, you and the little one will be just fine.

As long as you keep your portions in check, you should enjoy the holidays just as much as ever - without regretting your indulgence come February. Plus, you gotta save some room for king cake, remember? Happy holidays, and bon appetit.

Abby Sanders is a writer and content marketer based in New Orleans. She's worked with clients in retail, tourism, and health and wellness. When she's not helping brands with their SEO, she's spending too much on lattes and petting people's dogs.


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