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Holiday Celebrations During COVID-19: 6 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Eating

A mother, father and two children preparing a holiday turkey in their kitchen

Shawn Leask, MS, RD, bariatric program coordinator at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, shares tips for celebrating the holidays during COVID-19 in healthy, nutritious and delicious ways.

In light of ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19, this year’s holiday celebrations may look a little different than in years past. Whether you’re dining outdoors to practice social distancing or connecting with family via video chat to share your meal virtually, this holiday season will undoubtedly be a new experience for all of us.

One way to find comfort and consistency during this ever-changing time is to uphold your annual holiday cooking traditions! Preparing your family’s time-honored recipes and purchasing traditional holiday fare is a wonderful way to cultivate joy during this challenging time.

Below are some tips for enjoying your special holiday meals and celebrations throughout the season while promoting balance and maintaining progress on your wellness journey.

6 Tips for a Healthy Holiday During COVID-19

Keep your traditions going

Take the time to prepare a special holiday meal, even if it’s only for the immediate members of your household. Don’t let the reduced size of your gathering lead you to “skip” Thanksgiving or other winter holidays altogether. Consider cutting recipes in half to account for fewer attendees or keep your recipes as-is to make enough food for work-from-home lunches!

Stick to your schedule

Do not skip meals or excessively reduce calories leading up to a holiday meal. If you sit down to your holiday meal after not eating all day, it will be very challenging to eat slowly and practice mindful eating. Instead of skipping, aim for a nutritious breakfast to help provide fuel for the day.

Scan and plan

Before preparing your plate, first scan the various food options and then decide which items you would like to try. Evaluating your choices before building your meal will allow you to have room for your favorite holiday foods while avoiding items you’re not as interested in. "Scan and plan" works well for hors d’oeuvres and desserts, too. Scan the options and plan for one or two that you enjoy the most!

Enhance taste with herbs and spices

Load up on herbs and spices to reduce the amount of salt, butter, and gravy needed to flavor food. Seasonings like rosemary, garlic, parsley, and dill are great additions to your holiday feast. Fresh, dried, and granulated seasonings are all tasty options. If substituting dried seasonings for fresh, remember to look up the conversion factor in advance. Most recipes suggest reducing the volume by about 1/3 if swapping fresh for dried herbs.

Rethink your drink

Alcoholic beverages along with many non-alcoholic holiday drinks can contain anywhere from 100 to 300 calories per serving. Hot chocolate, apple cider, and mixed drinks tend to include high amounts of sugar. If choosing a higher calorie liquid refreshment, enjoy your beverage in moderation and remember to sip plenty of water or other low-calorie beverages too. Hot herbal teas and low-calorie flavored waters can help promote adequate hydration while not contributing additional calories.

Remember that it’s just a meal!

One meal won’t make or break the amazing progress you’ve made on your health and wellness journey. Take time to enjoy the holiday season and the special foods you enjoy most. Remember that food is not “good,” nor “bad”, but simply fuel for our bodies. Focus on including healthful items like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins in your holiday meals and strive for balance. If you make a food-related decision that leaves you feeling off track, remember that each meal is another opportunity to modify your choices to support your wellness. Most importantly, make sure to take some time to relax and celebrate this holiday season!

About this Blog

Learn about bariatric surgery and get the support you need to continue on your weight-loss journey. We offer workouts, recipes and tips from Bariatric Surgery program team members, and stories from patients like you.

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