Published on November 21, 2016

Tips to Eating Healthy this Holiday Season

Thanksgiving meal.

It’s that time of year where we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas – a season that includes family, friends, parties, church activities …. and food. A lot of food. Some classics include turkey, ham, casseroles, potatoes, gravies, greens cooked with pork, cranberry sauce, pies and cakes.

Though delicious, consuming all of these holiday foods throughout the month-long season can a huge impact on disease management and our waist line. However, the holidays are not a time to feel deprived, including in food choices.

Here are some tips and recipes that can make this holiday season a little healthier and still enjoyable with food, family and friends.

  • Eat a small, high fiber breakfast to help control cravings and reduce over eating at meals and events later in the day.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy your time with those around you.
  • Allow yourself 20 minutes after finishing your plate of food before getting seconds or dessert. If you feel mostly full, avoid going for seconds or dessert.
  • Go light on desserts – try fresh fruit, dark chocolate or thin slice of pie or cake.
  • Take a good walk before and/or after the big meal to burn off calories and help with digestion and fatigue.
  • Roast the turkey (or other meat) – frying adds calories and fat, even if you remove the fried skin
  • Don’t forget about the My Plate Method for your holiday meals – ½ fruits and vegetables, ¼ meat and ¼ starchy foods (potatoes, breads, corn, butter beans).
  • Focus on dark colored vegetables and leafy greens – they have fewer calories and are higher in filling fiber and nutrients.
  • Season vegetables with non-sodium and fat-free options, such as pepper, garlic, onions, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg and low-sodium broths. Avoid using any seasonings containing salt or animal products to season vegetables.
  • Substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones. For example, instead of green bean casserole (made with cream soup and fried onions), try fresh green beans sautéed with some olive oil and almonds. Choose white meat over dark. For mashed potatoes, flavor with low-sodium broth and garlic instead of butter, and mix with ½ amount of boiled cauliflower for more fiber and less starch.
  • Cut empty calories from your drinks – drink sugar-free beverages, such as water or sweetened tea with sugar substitute. Limit alcohol consumption.

I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season! Here are some healthy recipes that are sure to become holiday favorites.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Cran-applesauce bowl.


1 (12 ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
10 large ripe strawberries, frozen
1 large red delicious or honey crisp apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup orange juice
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Lime zest [I zested nearly the entire lime in mine! YUM!]
3 Tbs Honey
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
½ tsp of Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt


Place all ingredients in a pot and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat.  Use a food processor, blender or immersion blender to pureed sauce to desired consistency.

Cauliflower Mash

Mashed Cauliflower


3-4 cloves of roasted garlic
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
1 lb cauliflower head, broken into a few large pieces
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Reserved potato water


  1. Roast garlic cloves with olive oil and salt and bake at 350 degrees until soft (about 15 minutes).
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and the cauliflower (I did them at the same time) and boil until knife-tender (until you can poke with a knife and it easily slides out). Cauliflower should take about 15 minutes and potatoes about 25-35 min.
  3. In a food processor, puree the cauliflower with roasted garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, rosemary and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. When the potatoes are soft, remove them from the pot. Peel and mash them. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, then stir the cauliflower puree into the bowl with the potatoes. Stir, in a folding motion until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add ¼ cup (or so) of hot starchy potato water to help it out. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more olive oil, salt, pepper, and/or rosemary to taste.
  5. Serve hot. This recipe reheats well too – store in the fridge, microwave the next day.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.


1 pound Brussels sprouts – cut in half, stem removed
1 large sweet potato (1 pound) – chopped into cubes, with skin
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Place in large bowl.
  3. Add all ingredients to the bowl and mix together until the vegetables are well coated.
  4. Lay vegetables on to a large cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until slightly brown and tender.

Tip: to add more spice, can add  cumin, red pepper flakes, or rosemary and thyme to this dish.

Louisa Sherrill, MS, RD, LDN
Clinical Dietitian for Johnston Health – Smithfield

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