Stress & Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Posted by Isabel Debnam on Dec 9, 2021 11:00:00 AM

As a dietitian, the common theme I hear during this time of year centers around things like, struggling to not over-indulge during a holiday, working out extra hard to negate calories consumed, anxiety about undoing all the progress made thus far, and people not eating all day to feel okay about the holiday meal they’re planning to eat. My response to all of this is: your body doesn’t reset at midnight, so don’t stress &  enjoy the holiday –food included.

One meal – or even one day – does not have much of an impact on your weight, fitness level or overall health status. The accumulation of your habits over time does. So, as the holidays approach, cut yourself some slack and enjoy the dishes that you don’t get to have year-round.

All that being said, I understand and encourage doing what you can to prioritize your health in order to feel your best. Below are my tips for some healthy habits to incorporate the day of:

  • Stay hydrated. You’re likely consuming more alcohol, sodium and sugar than typical, so drinking plenty of fluids is key to avoiding dehydration.


  • Eat a nutritious breakfast. Showing up starving to the big meal often results in eating too fast, and to the point of discomfort – never a fun feeling.
  • Get in some physical activity. You don’t need to do a rigorous workout, but getting in some movement (like a 20-minute walk) is a great way to start your day before all the festivities!
  • Start with veggies on your plate, then protein. This is not to say that you can’t have everything else – you absolutely can (& should!). However, if you start with veggies and protein, you’ll know that at the very least, you’re getting in a good balance of nutrients!


  • Make your contribution a healthy dish. If you prefer foods that are on the healthier side, make that your contribution! Other guests may appreciate an additional healthy option, as well.


  • Pace yourself. I get it – this is (arguably) the best meal of the year, so it’s easy to get excited when filling your plate. Don’t forget that you’re allowed to go back for seconds, though! Fill your first plate, take your time and really enjoy your
    meal, pause for a moment to digest (and hydrate!), and then go back for more.
  • Pair your dessert with fruit. Again, enjoy the sweet treats, but also see if you can add a boost of nutrients in some way!


  • Try using natural sugars to bake your favorite holiday desserts. At the end of the day, sugar is sugar. However, choosing natural sugars actually offers some benefits! Think, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial benefits, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and more! Natural sweeteners you can cook with include honey, maple syrup, bananas, applesauce, coconut sugar, etc.


The bottom line is, you can find ways to prioritize nutrition without being so hyper-focused on sticking to a “perfect” diet for the day, or feeling the need to overcompensate with your diet/exercise on the days surrounding the holiday. Pick one or two of the tips above, and remember that one single day does not dictate your overall health!

Looking for more support? Active Wellness provides program management and guidance for a wide variety of clients. Contact us at for a free consultation to take your programming to the next level.

Team Active content is not medical advice; it's inspiration to live actively! 

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Written by: Isabel Debnam, a Registered Dietitian supporting the nutritional needs at Synergy Health Club Petaluma and Napa, managed by Active Wellness.