A Day in the Life of a Dietitian During the Holidays


Yes, we’re real people too. I promise I’m not the girl walking into my parent’s house for Thanksgiving carrying kale and carrot sticks. I love this time of year because it brings together my three most favorite things in the world: Family + Friends & Food.

The holidays can be a tricky time for those wanting to eat a bit healthier, and they are often stressful for that reason. I feel that it’s important to have balance! You’re not “failing” at a healthful diet if you indulge in your favorite holiday foods. You’re a real person, just like me!

On the mornings of the holidays I always try to start off my day with well-balanced breakfast. It’s never a good idea to skip meals during the holidays to save your calories for the big meal. Keep as much routine as you can and provide your body with good nutrition when you have the most control. In addition to a good breakfast, I do my best to get out and exercise. I do belong to a gym near my house, but even if you don’t, you can still get in a good workout at home. Maybe it’s going for a walk, shoveling snow (if there is any!) or even doing more house chores like vacuuming to get your body moving.

The past couple of years I’ve participated in local/walk runs on Thanksgiving Day. This was always a fun way for me to get out with some friends and family and get moving in the morning. Some years we walked, and other years I ran. Many communities have Turkey Trots or Thanksgiving Day activities. There might even be some around Christmas time!

I’m from a large family and we switch out who hosts the holiday gatherings each year. Our tradition is for everyone to bring a dish to share, it’s a giant pot luck! It’s great because this gives me the opportunity to bring a dish that tastes great, but can also be a little better-for-you. There’s plenty of food, so I promise- I’m not ruining Thanksgiving by bringing healthier options!

Choosing Food Wisely

Food is everywhere at holiday gatherings. Have you noticed there is always more food than people? We would hate for food to run out! It’s important to get a good look at what everyone brought before filling up your plate.

I start my meals by scanning the table. What did everyone bring? What are the things that I really want? How hungry am I? These are the things I ask myself before I start in line. I’ll admit, I know that ½ my plate should be fruits and vegetables; but some years it just doesn’t happen like that at the holidays. I always take just a small portion of what I want for a few reasons;

  • If I took portions any larger I would need a second plate.
  • A little bit of everything satisfies me. Trust me, you can always go back for seconds!

Another tip I use and always share with my clients is to make a plate for tomorrow. Yep. You heard me. We all get sent home with left overs, so when I’m trying to decide what I want to eat, I create a plate for today, and then I start to build a plate for myself with a few of the other items for tomorrow. This way I’m not feeling upset that I can’t try everything because the holiday is only one day. I know I’ll be able to enjoy the foods I want, I will just spread them out a bit more over a of couple days. This way I can balance out good portion sizes and have other balanced meals during the day as well.

Remember that it may take about 20 minutes for your stomach and your brain to connect after you’ve eaten. Much of the time, we over eat because we won’t take our time. The spirit of the holidays is all about family and friends. Use this time to connect with them and let your stomach settle before going up for the next round of food.

The beverages

I love a good holiday beverage, don’t get me wrong. Some days I feel like a kid because I fill up on sugary drinks and then I’m not as hungry (even though I still eat just as much). It’s not worth filling up on sugar-sweetened beverages when we know we have so much food to enjoy. Set the soda aside and enjoy a low-calorie drink that’s also low in added sugars. One of my favorites is sparkling water, or add 100% pomegranate juice to the sparking water to make a non-alcoholic mimosa for everyone to enjoy.  Stay well hydrated through the day with water as well! If you choose to have alcoholic beverages, remember to drink responsibly. Keep in mind that if you are dehydrated, you may be more likely to eat more because it causes you to feel hungry, even when you really aren’t.

How I Do Desserts… My Favorite Part

I love the dessert table. We get along great! If there is chocolate, I’m 99.99% likely to try it. When I tackle the desserts table, I always go for a small piece. And even though I want to take one of everything, I only take small pieces of 1-2 things and start with that. Even just a sliver of pumpkin or apple pie is enough to keep me satisfied.

Seasonal Activities with Family and Friends

Get the family active during your holidays gatherings! Up here in MN, we never know if we should expect 3 feet of snow, 1 inch of snow, or even rain on the holidays. The weather may be unpredictable, but there are always ways to get active! You could take the family sledding, go skating at a local park, play an outdoor football game, or even go for a walk with the family.

I’m a Real Person, Too

As you can see, I’m just like you. I like to indulge in my favorite holiday foods, but I see that it is just a part of my well-balanced diet. I don’t eat like this every day, which is why I am okay with enjoying the holidays with family and friends and enjoying every bite of food. You don’t need to overstuff yourself and you can always get back on track the next day.  Enjoy the tips that I’ve shared!! Don’t get down on yourself and remember- the most important part of the holidays is spending times with friends and family. From all of us here at Coborn’s, Happy Holidays!!

Happy & Healthy Holidays,

Amy, RD, LD
Supermarket Registered Dietitian, Coborn’s

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