We’re here to let you in on a little secret. Ready?
No one — and we really mean no one — is immune to the delicious temptations of the holiday season.
And why should they be? December only rolls around once a year, and with it comes an insanely yummy line-up of special treats. No one’s going to randomly offer you a shortbread cookie or peppermint cheesecake or bag of chocolate gelt in August, so you sure as heck better accept them when you have the chance.
People tend to think of nutritionists, dietitians, and health coaches as somehow above all of this, but we have proof (proof!) that they’re not. While they may have strategies to ensure they eat more mindfully during this food frenzy of a season, they don’t run from a buffet of holiday treats — and this sheer fact alone makes us feel all kinds of jolly. We convinced several nutrition pros to spill all the details on their favorite holiday indulgences, as well as their best hacks for avoiding overindulging. Keep scrolling for their dirty secrets.
Late in the year, I get really excited for pecan pie! Most people I’ve met prefer pumpkin, but I love the sweet and salty combination of roasted nuts with gobs of sugar. I still use the recipe on the back of the corn syrup bottle, with an extra cup of pecans for more crunch. If there’s any left over after a holiday dinner, I’m not opposed to eating it for breakfast!
— Emily Braaten, MS, RD, LD
During the holiday season (but let’s be real… always!), cookies and other baked goods are my favorite treat. Baking cookies over the holidays is a tradition that I cherish. My motto is “everything in moderation.” Allowing yourself to eat what you want when you want it — assuming moderation and a balanced, nutritious diet — is the recipe for a healthy relationship with food. That being said, healthy swaps can be made in baking, like substituting avocado for butter or reducing the amount of table sugar called for by replacing some of it with maple syrup or pureed fruit. Another pro tip: eat a warm bowl of oatmeal or another high-fiber snack before heading out to a holiday party. The feeling of satiety that fiber affords will promote mindful eating, so you can indulge without overindulging and really enjoy it.
— Katie D’Orazio, bulldog leader and RD-to-be
I have a sweet tooth and love a good dessert. My absolute favorites are Tiramisu and cheesecake. With that in mind, at family or friend gatherings, I always leave room for dessert because it’s something that makes the holidays distinct for me. It’s important to appreciate that, because the holidays are a time to enjoy and savor moments with family and friends — and your favorite indulgences!
— Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN, Health + Wellness Specialists at KIND Snacks
When it comes to holiday meals, the main events for me are all of the delicious side dishes. I look forward to favorites like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. For special occasions like these, it’s best to let go of feelings of guilt surrounding these foods and allow yourself to enjoy them! I try to practice mindful eating on holidays by taking a small portion of each food I want to try (because there are often many!) and really tasting them. If I like one more than another, I can always go back for seconds. This helps me satisfy my cravings and prevent overeating. For holidays and special occasions, make your focus on creating memories with loved ones, rather than counting calories. That’s what the spirit of the holiday season is really about!
— Gena Seraita, RD, CDN, NYC-based registered dietitian + nutrition consultant
As soon as eggnog starts showing up in the dairy case at the grocery, I add a quart to my shopping cart and add it to my coffee. I only get the full-fat-and-sugar eggnog — we’re splurging, after all! Psychologically, splurges should never be “halfway” with reduced-fat or reduced-sugar versions. I’m well aware of how “bad” eggnog is for me, but I’m also well aware of how good it makes me feel in terms of warm holiday feelings. It’s a trade-off that I’m willing to make for a few weeks. When Christmas rolls around, I’ll finish off whatever eggnog I have in the fridge, then go into the new year happily eggnog-free until the next holiday season.
— Shawn Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN
I have a rock-hard sweet tooth, so I’m never going to pass up a fresh, homemade, delicious chocolate cookie or cake. During the holidays when there are always tempting treats around, I do my best to make room for extra treats by keeping my non-special meals in check and working out regularly. When I know I’m going to a party, I eat extra healthily the rest of the day, but making sure never to arrive hungry. When it’s time to go indulge, I truly enjoy my sweet treat with an extra-large side of fruit to go with it. No guilt or qualms about it!
— Amy Rosenfeld, MS, RD, CDN, Youth Program Coordinator + Community Health Educator at Northern Westchester Hospital (Mt. Kisco, NY)
My favorite holiday splurge is mulled wine! While wine is my guilty pleasure year ’round, mulled wine finds a special place in my heart during the holiday season. The addition of oranges and festive spices to a dry, toasty red wine is the perfect treat for those cold winter days. Enjoy it relaxing indoors with a great book in hand, or outdoors with loved ones around a cozy fire. And, of course, it’s a great way to get some extra antioxidants into your diet!
— Charlene Pors, RD of Euphoria Nutrition
WAIT! Did you think we’d leave you hanging, without any actual splugeworthy recipes to take with you into the month of December? No way! You know that’s not our style. Check out these specific indulgence recipes from Denali Lord MS, registered dietitian and soon-to-be bulldog leader!
- Cut whole wheat pita slices into triangles.
- Decorate pita slices with guacamole, onions, red bell peppers, and yellow bell peppers to look like festive trees!
The Nutcracker (vegan friendly!)
- Mix almonds, walnuts, and cashews with dried cranberries or other dried fruit of choice.
- Eat in portions of 1/4 cup or roughly one handful.
Candy Cane Smoothie
- 8 oz. low-fat milk of choice (use almond, coconut, or soy milk if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant)
- 4 oz. Greek yogurt (substitute almond or soy yogurt if lactose intolerant or vegan)
- 2 oz. dairy or non-dairy peppermint creamer (check out this vegan recipe)
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