10 Tips to Stop Overeating During the Holidays (and Beyond)

Simple diet strategies from nutritionists will help you find the balance you need now and in the new year.

by Emily Shiffer Health Writer

One of the best things about the holidays is the food—from cookies to festive drinks and hearty casseroles, the culinary treats can be tempting and easy to overeat.

“Many people overindulge on holiday foods because these foods are usually not consumed on other days of the year, and therefore when they do become available during the holidays, many people might overeat,” says Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC in Atlanta.

We’re right there with you—letting loose a little in the food department is fun. But it’s still smart to keep a few boundaries in place. Read on for expert strategies that will help you have plenty of cheer now so you’re not stressing about the scale later.

Tip #1: Ditch the diet mentality.

“Instead of approaching holiday foods as restricted or bad foods, which will make you crave and want to overeat these foods, try to give yourself permission to enjoy these foods,” says Al Bochi. “Giving yourself permission to enjoy all foods will help you be at peace with all foods and allow you to focus on enjoyment, instead of overeating ‘forbidden foods.’”

Tip #2: Alternate alcohol with water (or mocktails).

“The holidays are a time to celebrate and alcohol is often included in that. The problem with this is that alcohol not only adds empty calories, but it also lowers inhibitions which can lead to making poor choices,” says Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition in New York City and spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Making sure you have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks helps to keep you hydrated and keeps you from drinking as much.” If you’re not a fan of plain water, add some citrus fruit to it or alternate alcoholic drinks with mocktails (so that you can stay with that festive vibe).

Tip #3: Keep healthy snacks in the home.

“If there are a lot of other options available in the house, it might make it easier to grab less of the ‘goodies’ and more of the healthy stuff, such as, fruit, nuts, yogurt, veggies and hummus,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a dietician in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet. Stock up on seasonal stuff that tastes as good as it looks.

Tip #4: Sit down while you eat.

“I suggest that when we eat holiday treats, you sit down and pay attention to the food you are eating,” says Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, a registered dietitian in Miami and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It can take almost twenty minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that it’s full,” adds Amber Pankonin, RD, a medical nutritionist and owner of Stirlist, in Lincoln, NE. So, sitting and eating slowly not only allows for healthy digestion to occur, but it also allows you to focus on convo with friends and family.

Tip #5: Schedule time for activity.

“Scheduling workouts might seem selfish when there is work to be done, but it can help you be more productive and prevent unwanted weight gain,” says Pankonin. “During the holidays, exercise can help sustain energy levels by improving sleep, lowering blood pressure and also improving mood and stress levels which might lead to better food choices.”

Tip #6: Balance your plate.

“Make sure that your meal has plenty of non-starchy vegetables (around ½ the plate), and that your carbs are balanced with protein and fat,” says Al Bochi. So, go on and take a scoop of your aunt’s famous cheesy potato casserole, but add a heaping helping of green salad on the side. “This formula will balance your blood sugars and provide satisfaction and fullness.”

Tip #7: Make time for regular meals.

“Even when there is so much to be done during the holidays, skipping meals might actually be counterproductive. Skipping meals can increase hunger or allow hormone levels to shift and energy levels can drop,” says Pankonin. “Making time for meals during the holidays can prevent overeating or snacking and it can also give you a sense of stability during the holiday season.”

Tip #8: Be mindful of appetizers.

“Many holiday meals start off with appetizers and hors d'oeuvres that can easily add up to being a meal on its own,” says Al Bochi. “Choose a couple of your favorite appetizers and leave some room for your dinner meal.”

Tip #9: Try and stick to an eating schedule.

Not having a regular eating schedule may set a person up for overeating; but if you stick to an eating schedule, for example—every 4-5 hours, you may be less ‘starved’ when mealtime arrives,” says Gans.

Tip #10: Scan what’s being offered.

“Prioritize which foods you really want vs. what you think you’d probably eat just because it’s there. If the food is a mystery, consider splitting it with someone or ask someone what their favorites on the table are,” says Genki. “If not, take a few helpings of the foods that look truly appealing to you and savor them. Before going back for seconds, ask yourself, am I still hungry? What will satisfy me? Repeat this process during dessert.”

Emily Shiffer
Meet Our Writer
Emily Shiffer

Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, wellness, weight loss, and fitness. She is currently based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, cilantro, and American history.