Karina Craig dishes out some food at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Steamboat Springs last year. Local dietitians have offered up tips to help you eat right this holiday season.

Joel Reichenberger/file

Karina Craig dishes out some food at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Steamboat Springs last year. Local dietitians have offered up tips to help you eat right this holiday season.

Local dietitians offer tips to eat right this holiday season


10 tips for dining well during the holidays

  1. In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day as this may result in overeating.
  2. It is especially important to have breakfast as research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day.
  3. Include fiber in your diet by eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. High-fiber foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger, but they are lower in calories.
  4. At buffet-style holiday meals, a common mistake is eating large portions of foods that are perceived as healthy. It's important to eat moderate serving sizes of all your favorites. Using this approach at the holiday dinner table will allow you to maintain a healthful eating plan — one that also can include dessert. Take one plate full and wait for dessert rather than returning for second and third helpings.
  5. Start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall.
  6. Eat your protein on your plate before the starches. This will stave off your urge to overeat the sweet potatoes, stuffing and other rich side dishes in large amounts.
  7. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Before you go back for seconds, wait ten minutes to see if you really are still hungry.
  8. Don't drink your calories. Filling up on juices, ciders and sodas is a way to increase unwanted calories. Have them in moderation or try sparkling waters with fruit pieces, which make a refreshing, thirst-quenching beverage that looks festive and fun.
  9. After dinner, get some physical activity. This is a great time to go for a walk and catch up with family members, or you can play catch or a game of basketball with the kids.
  10. Have some of your favorites — it's the holidays after all — but have a strategy that let's you have fun food memories without the feeling of being stuffed and unable to move.

— Nancy Cohen

— You're probably thinking about it right now.

You know, all that rich stuffing, fried turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and the like.

Or is it the pumpkin pie buried under whipped cream?

It's the holiday eating season, and chances are there will be plenty of calories to consume along with all of the joyous memories you are about to gain.

Nancy Cohen, a local nutritionist and dietician, calls this time of year "a hurricane."

First, there's the big Thanksgiving dinner, she says. Then there are days of leftovers, and pretty soon its on to the other meals at Christmas and all the other holidays in December.

"It's a whole month of this stuff," she said. "It's like it goes on forever."

Below, registered dietitian and nutritionist Cara Marrs answers questions about holiday eating. Marrs has a private practice in Align Wellness on Oak Street and also works as a dietitian at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

She will give a talk about healthy eating for the holidays at noon Dec. 4 at YVMC.

Q. What are the dangers of overeating during the holidays and at big holiday meals like Thanksgiving dinner?

A. Well the biggest one is that many people look at the 5 to 6 weeks or so of holiday time around Thanksgiving and Christmas as a free-for-all. It's very easy to gain weight and lose fitness and much harder to lose weight and gain fitness. You want to be able to relax and enjoy yourself without losing the fitness base that you have. There is no reason you must gain weight during the holidays. It makes it all the harder to get back on track at the first of the year. What you can do is loosen your routine and maybe focus on maintenance, keeping weight where it is and maintaining fitness. Dangers associated with eating too much, outside of weight gain, include poor work productivity, fatigue, decreased exercise, headaches, increased blood glucose levels and even depression.

Q. Do I have to give up all of those tasty, traditional foods to eat healthier during the holidays?

A. No, but lets look at healthier versions that are just as satisfying but include better ingredients and are more nutrient dense. Add more veggies and plan on more plant-based options. Try to cook from scratch more often and don’t sacrifice taste for convenience. Try to eat things in season for maximum nutrient density including beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, leeks, pears, apples, mushrooms, kale, endive, squash, etc.

Q. What preparations can I make before a big holiday meal to prevent overeating?

• Don't hang out near the food table. You will be more tempted to pick.

• Load up on nuts, beans and a big salad before you attend a party. Do not arrive starving.

• Focus on friends and conversation not on food.

• Look at your food, taste your food and don’t shovel in — enjoy it.

• Build your plate mindfully, and be the last one through the buffet line; it's less appealing.

• Avoid drinking too much alcohol by staying hydrated and drinking 8 ounces of water in between each alcoholic drink.

• Stick with the spritzer: Add 2 ounces of white wine or vodka with sparkling water and add citrus. Pass on the eggnog, which may be 500 to 600 calories a glass, as well as the margaritas, creamy drinks, daiquiris and other drinks with extra sugar and juices.

Q. What's the biggest challenge to eating healthy during the holidays? How can they be overcome?

Maintaining a healthy regiment. At work, be the change you want to see. Bring healthy foods to work and potlucks. Keep sweets and gifts from clients away from main areas of the office. Ask coworkers to not be excessive in what they bring to work because they don’t want it sitting around their house.

Q. It can be difficult to do some forms of physical activity during the holidays because of the weather. What types of winter activities do you recommend to help stay fit and healthy?

Commit to trying snowshoeing, learning to skate-ski, set a goal to make it to the gym a certain number of times per week or try a new class like barre fit or hot yoga. You can also have everyone hike to cut down a tree, play snow football, go skiing or join a 5-kilometer race like the Turkey Trot.

Tips for cooking healthier entrees during the holidays

Sweet Potato Pie

The old way: Processed marshmallows, canned pineapple and heavy cream.

A new twist: Bake the sweet potatoes then mash with coconut milk, curry paste and seasoning.


The old way: Processed boxed or bagged stuffing, processed sausage or too much meat, a lack of veggies and no heart-healthy fats.

A new twist: Use real bread, maybe even homemade or gluten-free, day-old bread, add in seasonal veggies like celery, shitakes, carrots, leeks, apples and onions. Use olive oil, and add walnuts. If you want some extra protein, you can add turkey sausage or local elk sausage. Look for local ingredients and remember that a little goes a long way with meat.

Macoroni and cheese

The old way: Filled with cheese, no veggies, lots of empty carbs.

A new twist: Quinoa, butternut squash, cranberry and pecans. Loaded with whole grains, gluten-free, vitamin rich squash, antioxidant rich berries and healthy fat-rich nuts. Add some blue cheese or feta if you want.

Green bean casserole

The old way: Canned green beans chemically treated, fried processed onion crumbs with trans fats.

A new twist: Glazed green beans and portobellos. Fresh green beans, mushrooms, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Make your own crumble for the top by sauteing leeks in olive oil and adding homemade whole wheat or gluten-free bread crumbs.


The old way: Pumpkin pie with a big, Crisco crust.

A new twist: Add a healthy crust by lining the pie tin with a mixture of melted coconut oil, almond, cinnamon and flax meal. The carbohydrates from the pumpkin is enough, and this way you add healthy fats and proteins

— Cara Marrs


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