eating holiday

By Jennifer Lease, RD, CDN, Director of Nutrition Initiatives, YMCA of Metro Denver  

Are thoughts of all the holiday sweets and treats causing you stress?  

Do you feel like you can’t enjoy your favorite holiday foods when you’re working on your health?  

Are you worried that what you eat during the holidays will throw off progress toward your goals?  

You’re not alone!  

The holiday season is a time of celebration that usually comes with lots of sweets, treats and traditional dishes that feel indulgent. It can be difficult to find balance during the holidays – wanting to enjoy all the foods you love while being mindful of your health.  

You might hear that word balance and feel frustrated by it. What does it even mean? Balance means enjoying nutritious foods most of the time, while giving yourself grace (and space) to enjoy those sweets and treats.  

So, how can you find that balance during the holidays and enjoy your favorite foods without the side order of guilt? Here are some tips:  

  1. Balance your plate and practice portion control  

You can enjoy a bit of everything with some balance and portion control. Plus, you’ll feel better after the meal, too! The basics of a balanced plate include protein, veggies and a starch or grain. Try filling half of your plate with veggie dishes and then take a smaller portion of the others you want to try. Holiday dishes tend to be heavy, starchy foods, so don’t forget to add some protein like turkey or chicken to your plate to create that balance. Then, enjoy every bite!  

  1. Move your body  

Move your body, not because you think you should make up for eating those holiday treats, but because movement makes you feel good both physically and mentally. Movement can set a positive mindset for the day and the after affect is the feeling of doing something good for your body. Movement also helps with digestion. If you’re feeling super stuffed after a holiday meal, some exercise can help you feel better. Remember, it’s important to find exercise that you enjoy and that truly feels good for you. Exercise is often looked at as punishment for eating “badly”, but it’s really part of a healthy lifestyle that contributes to your overall well-being.  

  1. Remember that every day is a new day   

A healthy lifestyle should be sustainable. This means having flexibility and leaving space for the foods you enjoy. You don’t need to “compensate” for what you eat at the holidays. You don’t need to work out for three hours the next day to make up for last night’s meal. Instead, make the intentional choice to enjoy what you want and to be present in the holiday season. Each day is an opportunity to get back on track with your regular eating habits and routine.  

Do you want to take the guesswork out of nutrition and work to set realistic healthy lifestyle goals? The nutrition team at the YMCA of Metro Denver can help. Reach out at or visit us at