Buffet dinners, festive cocktails, and beautifully decorated sweets are a few of the tempting treats many of us look forward to during the holidays. Traditional holiday meals and desserts are often more indulgent than our day to day fare—think higher in calories from sugar, starch, or fat. Overindulging can displace essential nutrients, contribute to unwanted weight gain, and leave you feeling less than your best.1
It’s 100% possible to enjoy seasonal favorites without sacrificing a healthy lifestyle. The secret is taking a positive and inclusive approach to eating, which allows you to enjoy your favorite once-a-year treats as part of a balanced diet.
One of the best ways to balance extra food indulgences during the holidays is prioritizing nutrient-dense foods. Read on for 5 tips to help you maintain a balanced, nutrient-dense diet this holiday season.
What are Nutrient Dense Foods?
Nutrient-dense foods contain health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants with few calories.2 They’re also naturally low in saturated and trans fats, added sugar, and sodium. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins from animal and/or plant-based sources, nuts, and seeds.
Tips for More Nutritious Holidays
1. Eat regular meals
It might be tempting to skip meals or eat lighter in anticipation of a holiday gathering, but doing so can reduce nutrient intake and contribute to unhealthy cravings and overeating.
Instead, stick to your usual meal schedule and use nutrient-dense foods to build balanced breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to help keep you energized and satisfied. If you’re short on time, try a quick protein shake made with your choice of milk, protein powder, frozen fruit, and a spoonful of nut butter.
2. Spotlight in-season produce
Look for new ways to enjoy fruits and vegetables that go beyond traditional cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Winter is an abundant time for fresh produce. In-season produce includes cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, squash, root vegetables, and citrus fruits.
Try a new recipe or bring a fruit or veggie you haven’t had before to a holiday spread. Maybe you can start a holiday meal with a fresh green salad, have roasted carrots or cauliflower as a side dish, or serve a winter fruit salad with dessert.
3. Include more whole grains.
Whole grains are a great choice for filling fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants. Try starting your day with a warming bowl of oats, serving brown rice or quinoa with a stir fry, or adding grains, like bulgur or wild rice, to soups. You can also bump up the nutrition at holiday meals by serving whole grain bread and crackers or making whole grain stuffing.
4. Make nutrient-dense ingredient swaps.
A few easy ingredient substitutions can make holiday dishes even more nutrient-dense. You can try replacing some or all of the cream in soup and sauces with plain yogurt or pureed white beans.
There are lots of healthy baking substitutions, too. You can swap applesauce, pumpkin puree, or pureed dates for some of the butter and oil in baked goods. It’s also easy to add nuts, seeds, collagen, or a greens powder to baked goods for a nutrient boost.
5. Take a daily multivitamin
A multivitamin, like Naturelo Whole Food Multivitamins, can help fill in gaps in nutrient intake. Think of your multivitamins as extra insurance during the holidays. When most of us are busier than usual and foods become a central part of celebrations, a high-quality multivitamin helps provide the daily vitamins and minerals you need to support a healthy lifestyle.
Take your multivitamin at the same time each day or pair it with another established habit, like brushing your teeth, to help you take it consistently.
Setting the intention to prioritize nutrient-dense foods is the first step to maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holidays. With a bit of planning, you can enjoy more balance on your plate during the holidays.
Meal planning daily snacks and meals, researching healthier holiday recipes, stocking your kitchen with nutrient-dense choices, and sticking to your supplement routine can help put your intention into action.
1. Díaz-Zavala RG, Castro-Cantú MF, Valencia ME, Álvarez-Hernández G, Haby MM, Esparza-Romero J. Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review. J Obes. 2017;2017:2085136. doi:10.1155/2017/2085136\
2. Nicklas TA, Drewnowski A, O'Neil CE. The nutrient density approach to healthy eating: challenges and opportunities. Public Health Nutr. 2014;17(12):2626-2636. doi:10.1017/S136898001400158X