Navigating Holiday Gatherings with Moderation in Mind


Who says that holidays have to be stuffed with belly-stuffing traditions? While the average American gains about one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, weight gain, indigestion and post-meal sluggishness do not have to be on your wish list.

There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence here and there, but when a splurge turns to overindulgence, you can be left feeling crummy and guilty. Pick a couple strategies that will keep you from overdoing it. Here are a few ideas you could try:

  • Decide ahead of time if you will choose a holiday libation, indulgent appetizer, or decadent dessert. Keep in mind, it can be more difficult to say no to nibbling after a drink or two.
  • Bring a veggie tray or fruit salad to the party so you have at least one healthy option to choose from.
  • If you have a choice, use a smaller plate to encourage proper portion size.
  • Start your holiday meal with a green salad or other vegetables (hopefully not covered in thick sauces or sugary dressings) to help fill your stomach before adding the starchy sides or pie a la mode.
  • Savor the truly delectable dishes made with love and pass on the store-bought stuff.
  • Only eat from a plate, and not while hanging out near the bowl of chips. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Before going back for seconds, wait 10 minutes to see if you are still truly hungry.
  • If you choose to have dessert, pick only your favorite one from the dessert table, or cut yourself just a sliver off of 2-3 you can’t decide between. There will be people in the dessert line behind you that will be happy to have a smaller portion to put on their plate.

Also see 4 Tips for Taming Your Sweet Tooth During the Holidays.

Stuff your stockings not yourself this year. #HealthyHolidays #HolidayParty #saslife Click To Tweet

Remember, nobody is perfect. If you had one too many cookies at the office party last week, don’t let one slip cause you to slide into the “To heck with it. You only live once. I’ll think about my health in the New Year” mindset. Each moment is an opportunity to try your hand at moderation once more.

If you are hosting or helping to plan a party, consider incorporating some activities that aren’t centered around food and drinks. Guests will thank you for a distraction from the temptations.

  • Provide some simple group games for guests to play.
  • Put on some holiday music and have a sing-along.
  • Arrange an ugly sweater contest.
  • Plan a white elephant exchange.
  • For evening gatherings, lead guests on a post-meal walk to see the decorated homes in the area.


And when all else fails, start fresh in the new year. Click here to learn more about the online Healthy Habits program that starts mid-January.


Ground Beef & Pomegranate Stuffed Butternut Squash

Recipe Adapted From: Fed and Fit and So Delicious
Serves 4-6


Don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. If you are short on ingredients or prep time, you can get away with omitting almost anything from the list (with the exception of the squash, ground beef and a few seasonings), and it will still turn out scrumptious.


1 medium-large butternut squash, sliced in half lengthwise and deseeded (save seeds for roasting as a snack)
1 Tbsp avocado oil
1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4-5 mushrooms, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
cayenne pepper (optional), to taste
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 pomegranate, deseeded
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 green onion, sliced (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove its seeds with a spoon.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lay the butternut squash halves on it. Roast for 40 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat avocado oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook it until brown, stirring often.
  5. Add the onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until the onion softens.
  6. Add the bell pepper, dried thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook further for about 10 minutes, on low-medium heat.
  7. Remove the roasted butternut squash from the oven and scoop out some of its flesh to make room for the stuffing.
  8. Stuff the butternut squash halves with the beef mixture.
  9. Return to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes, or until a fork slides easily into the thickest part of the squash.
  10. Remove from oven and top with pomegranate seeds, fresh parsley and green onion, and serve.

Freezing Leftovers

  1. For an entire batch: wrap tightly with plastic and then with aluminum foil.
  2. For individual servings: cut each squash piece in half and spoon a full serving into a glass container.
  3. Freeze solid and enjoy within 5 months of date.
  4. To reheat in the oven: place a squash piece, several pieces, or the entire pan in the oven while it’s cool. Turn the oven up to 375ºF and set a timer for 30 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes (depending on the number of pieces). Remove when bubbly, but not burnt.

About Author

Jen Sohl-Marion, MPH, RDN, LDN

Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs

Jen is the Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Outside of work, Jen enjoys hiking with her family, practicing yoga and spending quality time with her dogs.

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