Tips and Tricks for Healthier Holiday Eating

Eat, drink, and be merry—all in moderation

When we gain weight during the holidays, the result is often fatigue and disappointment in how we feel or how our clothes fit. Scott Schuldes, APNP, at ThedaCare Physicians in Hilbert and Darboy, reports that many of his patients gain an average of five pounds from Halloween through New Year’s Day. “It starts with Halloween candy in the house, and then proceeds to the big Thanksgiving feast, then Christmas cookies and candy and drinks. Year after year, those pounds really add up.”

Schuldes advises his patients to be thoughtful about how they approach food this season—and year round. “Diets fail. We know that. What we need is healthy lifestyle change that we follow every day. So eat, drink, and be merry—but do so in moderation.” Here are some tips to try:

Don’t be a Loser. Don’t try to lose weight during the holiday season. To simply maintain your pre-holiday weight is a victory in the midst of so many dips, chips, treats, and drinks. Launching a diet at this time of year will make you feel deprived and grouchy, exactly the wrong mood for party guests.

For Starters. “Drink a full glass of water before any meal. It starts to trigger the sensation of fullness and you will eat less,” Schuldes said. A green salad, a plate of veggies, shrimp cocktail, or a broth-based soup will also start to fill your belly with quality nutrients, not unhealthy fats or sugar, and help limit your food intake later in the meal. Watch out for unhealthy traps like rich creamy soups and calorie-laden salad dressings.

Plan, Scan, and Ask Again. “Healthy changes take thought and intention. Plan ahead for days when there will be big meals. Go for a walk in the morning. Eat small healthy snacks early in the day so you don’t get famished and overeat later on,” Schuldes said. When food is served, scan your choices and make a mental note to reach for foods that are more simply prepared without sauces or fried batter coatings. As you are chewing each bite, take time focus on its smell, taste, and texture before you swallow it. Then ask yourself, “Do I need or even want this next bite?” Research shows that mealtime multitasking (whether at home or at a party) can make you pop mindless calories into your mouth.

Take a Seat. Don’t stand over the food counter and graze continuously. Take a plate, choose your food, and go sit down. You will be more aware of the amount and type of food you are eating.

Think Before you Drink. Alcohol not only serves up empty calories, but when we relax our inhibitions, we tend to eat more. Remember to drink water between alcoholic drinks to rehydrate, fill your stomach, and space out your intake.

Is it Special? Don’t waste calories on foods that you can have any time of year. Pick treats that are special this holiday season, like your great aunt’s candied yams or your little girl’s first batch of cookies.

Proper Settings. Pour drinks into tall, skinny glasses, not squat ones. Use smaller plates and serving utensils. Sit in smaller groups at several tables instead of one long table. You will eat and drink less without feeling deprived or constantly having to pass food (and grab extra helpings).

Shake it Up. Suggest that you and your friends meet out for coffee or tea at a local coffeehouse instead of happy hour and wings. You may be the first to say out loud what others have been thinking for a while. Change can be good!

Are you looking for some more lifestyle tips that will make a positive impact on your health?

Scott Schuldes, APNP, certified family nurse practitioner, is accepting new patients at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert at (920) 853-3444 and also in Darboy. Or call ThedaCare On Call at (920) 830-6877 or go to and click on “Find a Doctor.”