9 Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking, and Eating!

(Published Nov 20, 2014)

Fact: The greatest number of heart attacks occurs on the same three days each year. According to a study published in the journal Circulation, you are most likely to die from a heart attack during the winter holidays.

Overindulgence is one key factor: over the holidays, we tend to overeat in general, consuming too much unhealthy fats and sodium.

How can you help your family eat healthier during the holidays? Here are some tips to still enjoy your favorite holiday meals, but keep them on the healthier side.

  1. Discourage second helpings. Don’t serve you mean with extra helpings readily available on the table. Instead, serve from a buffet or plate up servings individually. Bonus: you’ll use fewer dishes!
  2. Create a meal plan that is mostly fruits and vegetables.
  3. Use smaller plates. Studies indicate we consume more when we use larger plates, a good excuse to break out your vintage dinnerware—it will likely have a smaller diameter.
  4. Use fat substitutes. Use milk in place of cream. Drain excess fat from pan drippings used in gravy. Offer more fruits and vegetables and less cheeses for appetizers.
  5. Add nuts and dried fruits to side dishes to enhance flavor and increase fiber.
  6. Choose healthier fats like olive oil, Smart Balance, canola oil or nut oils.
  7. Play with texture and flavor combinations to create interesting flavors that don’t rely on fat or sodium.
  8. Plate up dessert in small portions and serve them buffet style instead of allowing guests to cut their own portion.
  9. Protein foods curb your appetite so offer small healthy protein bites as appetizers (think light cheeses, smoked salmon on cucumbers, shrimp cocktail, herbed nuts…). See the Stuffed Endive recipe below.

You may remember my advice from Halloween…if you totally blow it overeating, dust yourself off the next day and get right back on track. It is common to adopt the attitude “oh well, I have already screwed up my eating this year. I’ll start over in the New Year.” It is infinitely easier to keep weight off versus taking weight off. Those few pounds added during the holidays tend to stay there and then they get company during the next holiday season!

Stuffed Endive

  • 1 head Endive, washed and separated
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 4 oz Neufchatel cream cheese
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, chives, flat Italian parsley)
  • 2 Tbs pomegranate seeds
  • 2 Tbs chopped toasted nuts
  • Honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread nuts in single layer on cookie sheet and toast until crunchy (about 15 minutes) shaking occasionally. Set aside to cool. Mix cheeses and herbs together. Spoon cheese mixture onto endive leaves and garnish with pomegranate seeds and chopped nuts. Drizzle with honey.


Katherine2By Katherine Matutes, Ph.D., JCC Indianapolis Director of Health and Wellness

Katherine is a food advocate, mom, culinary nutritionist and science lover who is a regular contributor to the JCC’s blog on nutrition.