Holiday Healthy Eating

Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Although it may look different this year due to covid, it’s still a time of family, laughter and of course…Food! The biggest challenge is to have fun at Holiday events without jeopardizing some of the healthy practices you have worked on with me throughout the year!

Did you know that the average american eats around ~3,000 calories a day on Thanksgiving!!!  You can still have fun without having to sacrifice your health.

Here are some healthy tips and tricks to keep you fueled but mindful during the holiday season:

  1. Don’t arrive to the festivities famished! You will almost certainly overeat if you “save your appetite” for your holiday meal. Eat your normal meals and then eat a light meal or snack before arriving at your festivities. A snack or meal that is high in fiber and contains lean protein is ideal because it can help control your appetite and help you avoid overeating.
  2. Choose a smaller plate! You will likely eat most everything on your plate, choose a smaller plate so you will put less portions on it and it will fill up quicker!
  3. Aim for MyPlate: While you are building your holiday plate, aim for ½ of it to be veggies and fruit, ¼ protein and ¼ grain or starch.
  4. Be Social: The more time you spend socializing, the less time you have to graze!
  5. Make the socializing active: Suggest a family walk to get outside and move instead of sitting around food.
  6. Watch the liquid calories: special drinks such as eggnog or apple cider can add a meal’s worth of calories. Aim for ½ of a cup of any fancy drinks and then stick to water!
  7. Pack gum or mints: Utilize these when cooking or sitting around food. You will be way less likely to mindlessly snack when you have a mint or gum in your mouth.
  8. Bring a vegetable dish: Often Holiday meals are potluck style. Bring a healthy dish for everyone to enjoy. If there aren’t many healthy options, you can always eat the dish you brought!

As we are home from work, inside the house, have holiday food around, we are more likely to snack than usual. When building a snack, aim for Protein+ Fruit or vegetable

A few of my favorite snack ideas include:

Almond butter + celery
Hummus + carrots or bell peppers
Cottage cheese + whole sliced peaches
Roasted chickpeas + grapes

If you are the one cooking most of the food, here are some healthy meal prep ideas:

Avoid recipes with the words                                             Aim for recipes with the words

  • Pan-fried                                                                               * Grilled
  • Crispy                                                                                   * Steamed
  • Dipped                                                                                  * Baked
  • Scalloped                                                                              * Roasted
  • Breaded                                                                                * Braised
  • Creamed                                                                               * Broiled
  • Alfredo                                                                                  * Seared

> Double or triple the veggies in a recipe to add more bulk to your meal
> Trim all fat from meat before cooking. Remove the skin from chicken or turkey.
> Try lemon juice, herbs, or spices to season food instead of salt, butter, or margarine.


Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa  with Cider Dijon Vinaigrette

Are you looking for a healthier option to bring to thanksgiving this year? Try this delicious butternut squash, cranberry and quinoa dish with a delicious cider dijon dressing! The sweet and savory textures are sure to be a hit!

Prep Time 15  mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Side dish


For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper,, to taste

For the quinoa:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups diced butternut squash, (~1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil,, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries, (~6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup uncooked white quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced sage, (cut chiffonade style)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper,, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons toasted chopped pecans, (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, (optional)


  • To make the dressing, whisk together the apple cider, mustard, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  • Toss diced squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes until the squash is tender and starting to brown.
  • Toss cranberries and shallots with maple syrup and the remaining teaspoon oil. Add to the baking sheet and toss with the squash. Roast 10 to 15 minutes until the squash is crisp and browned on the outside, the cranberries have started to soften and burst, and the shallots are caramelized.

Here is a healthy cranberry recipe to bring to your Thanksgiving gathering!

Recipe Source:

Happy Nourishing Simple Living

Lavanya Kethamukkala, RDN, LDN, CLT