• Derrick W. Spell, MD FACP

Holiday Eating Survival Guide

Updated: Feb 12

The 2019 holiday season is here! It is time to celebrate with holiday parties and family events. Unfortunately, these gatherings can be devastating if you are trying to watch your weight. Holiday eating can easily result in an extra pound (or several) each year! However, the holidays don’t have to be synonymous with weight gain. Let’s review some helpful strategies to safeguard your successful eating this holiday season.





Never arrive hungry at any get-together! This includes all parties and family events featuring a meal. You are more likely to make poor decisions and overindulge if you arrive famished. If you are going to a lunchtime family gathering, make certain you eat a good breakfast. If you are attending a dinner party with friends or colleagues, consider eating a nutritious snack shortly before you arrive.


Survey all of the food options at the party before you put anything on your plate. Decide which foods you wish to eat as well as those you should avoid. Make sure to include plenty of vegetables. Most get-togethers have vegetable trays with several excellent choices. Watch out for the high-calorie dips waiting nearby!


Use a smaller plate like a salad plate! Larger plates lead to larger serving sizes. Place everything that you wish to enjoy on your plate and never eat while you are serving yourself.

Sit down to enjoy your food. Don’t hang out near the food and avoid grazing. Pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table to ensure that you are not eating too quickly. Eat until you are satisfied, but not stuffed!


Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Drinking water (or unsweetened tea) while you eat may help you feel fuller. Improved satiety will make it harder for you to overeat at any function.


Avoid alcohol with eating as much as possible. Alcohol contains unwanted calories, reduces self-consciousness and often leads to overeating. If you choose to drink, limit your alcoholic beverage to one serving. (Remember, one serving = 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.)


Be cautious with the sweets! Some desserts (including many holiday favorites) have more calories than some main dishes. Since most parties have a fruit tray, consider eating fresh fruit in place of dessert. If you’d like something sweet, pick one thing only and choose a reasonable portion size. Consider sharing or splitting a dessert with someone too.


Plan time for exercise. If you are going to a lunchtime family gathering, go for a walk either that morning or evening. If you are attending a dinner party, take a walk earlier in the day or the next morning. Exercise also helps to alleviate some of that holiday stress!


Focus less on food and more on your family and friends! Enjoy the time socializing and permit yourself one treat. Don’t beat yourself up if do you overeat. Any modest increase in exercise can help offset added holiday eating.


If you want to learn more eating tips as well as other helpful eating suggestions, please check out my book The Bite-Sized Guide to Getting Right-Sized!

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© 2019 by Derrick W. Spell, MD, FACP

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