20 Smart Strategies Nutritionists Use To Navigate The Season Of Overeating

Steal some tips from the pros to keep your health and weight in check.

November 30, 2016
christmas cookies
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Nutritionists: They’re just like us, with one minor difference, of course. These pros have made careers out of helping people navigate the healthy-eating minefields—like the season of eating, drinking, and being merry that is now upon us. We surveyed registered dietitians to find out how they stay fit and fueled during the holidays. Here’s how they do it.

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)

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Put The Focus Inward

“I try to get to more yoga classes or take time in the dark mornings to stretch and get grounded,” says Kerri-Ann Jennings, a Seattle-based dietitian. These 5 yoga poses will help keep you calm and grounded.

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Think Simple

“I use shortcuts to save time, since it is a busier time of year,” says Cynthia Sass, a New York City and Los Angeles-based dietitian and author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. “Instead of cooking, I might assemble a simple salad of greens tossed with a vinaigrette topped with lentils and avocado—this way I avoid takeout or processed foods with something equally convenient but better for me.” (Just be sure to avoid these worst salad toppings, according to nutritionists.)

Step Up The Steps

“I try to walk more,” says Caroline Kaufman, a New York-based registered dietitian and blogger.

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Amp Up The D

“It is very dark in both the morning and early evenings in December,” says Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based dietitian and owner of Champagne Nutrition. And that means your body naturally produces less immune-boosting, bone-strengthening vitamin D than it does in the summer months. “I am extra diligent about taking my vitamin D during these winter months.” (Here are 5 scary things that can happen when you don't get enough vitamin D.)

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Select The Best

“When you’re faced with treats, I rank them on a scale from zero to five, with zero being ‘meh’ and five being ‘can’t-live-without’. If something doesn’t rank at least a four, I pass on it,” says Sass. 

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Make Them Disappear

The more visible snacks are, the more likely we are to eat them. The experts we talked to immediately dismantle holiday gift baskets and put the contents away in the pantry. If they really want cheese popcorn or candy, they can take some out, but putting them out of sight helps cut back on mindless snacking.

Related: Your 5-Step Plan To Stop Emotional Eating

BYO Snacks

“You know you’ll eat more if you’re hungry,” says Jennings. Prevent the temptation of gift basket food at the office by keeping your own blood-sugar stabilizing snacks, like nuts, in your desk. (These 10 snacks every stress eater should keep handy are good ones for your desk.)

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Keep It Steady

“I tend to eat the same breakfast regardless of what the rest of the day holds,” says Jennings. “It’s usually a combination of a whole grains or fruit with a fat or protein.” Something like a slice of toast with almond butter will stabilize your blood sugar, so you’re not ravenous later on—a smart way to start any day of the year. 

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Prioritize Physical Activity

“Exercise is more important than ever this time of year,” says Hultin. “The morning or afternoon before an event, I eat balanced meals and definitely do something active.” (These 8 huge benefits of a daily walk with get you moving!)

Banish The Bloat

“I choose foods that are energizing, filling, and stomach-slimming,” says Kaufman. “I have a good source of protein like scrambled eggs with a gluten-free grain like brown rice cakes and a mandarin orange.”

Related: What Gluten-Free Snacks Really Taste Like

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Load Up On Veggies

“If I know I’m going somewhere that could have a lot of rich food, I’ll try to make sure I get in all my veggies earlier in the day,” says Jennings. Add these 11 best smoothie ingredients to your next blend.

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Don't Waste Your Time

“If I taste a pastry or another treat and it’s not great, I don’t finish it,” says Jennings. “Life’s too short to eat bad food!”

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Size Up The Offerings

“My first step is to take a look at everything that’s available, pick out my splurge first, and then build the rest of my meal around it,” says Sass. Her most likely pick? Something salty, like chips and guacamole, which she’ll then balance with a serving of lean protein and plenty of veggies.

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Sip Seltzer

“I drink a lot of sparkling water at parties,” says Kaufman. “It’s hydrating and calorie-free, so it helps me feel more full. And it’s a good counterbalance to the cocktails, so I don’t get too tipsy.” (If you're bored with plain H20, try these tasty fruit-infused water combos.)

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Pregame Your Meal

“Because I’m a vegetarian, I usually eat something ahead of time,” says Hultin. “I don’t want to arrive really hungry and then find I don’t have a lot of non-dessert options to eat.”

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Share A Favorite Side

“I always bring a veggie dish to parties, just to ensure I’ll have enough to eat,” says Sass. “If I have too few veggies, I’ll be more likely to go back for seconds on the chips and guac.” (You can't go wrong with the best way to roast root veggies.)

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Control The Carbs

“My rule of thumb is to only have two starches (like bread and potatoes or sweet potatoes and stuffing),” says Jennings. “Then I plan yummy nonstarchy vegetables to round out the offerings.”

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Pile On The Produce

“The menu will always have a lot of veggies,” says Sass. “The last time I cooked with family I made a garden salad with a mustard balsamic vinaigrette, roasted Brussels sprouts, and sautéed asparagus.”

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Say Au Revior To Hors d’Oeuvres

“I just hosted Thanksgiving, and I didn’t serve appetizers,” says Kaufman. “People often fill up on high-calorie apps before dinner, so by the time they sit down, they’re kind of full. By the end of dinner, everyone feels like they overate. So, no apps.”

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Improve On Favorites

“I love to experiment with better-for-you versions of traditional desserts, like pies, brownies, and cupcakes with whole food ingredients that are gluten free, dairy free, and soy free,” says Sass. Check out these 5 insanely simple and surprising ways to make your baked goods healthier for ideas.