Strategies For Healthy Holiday Eating Without Feeling Deprived

If you live in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving! I love this time of year because I get to relax at home with my family and cook my favourite comfort foods with my mom. The holidays center heavily around food, no matter how you celebrate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can certainly bring about a lot of anxiety if you’re worried about maintaining a healthy diet. Today I’m going to share some tips to help you eat well at holiday meals without deprivation. 


Don’t Restrict the Day Before

Avoid restricting your food intake the hours leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, as you may wind up ravenous when you arrive for dinner and this drives overeating. Instead, include lean protein at each meal throughout the day to keep you satisfied and aim for at least 5 servings of fibre-rich fruits and veggies.

Curb Pre-Dinner Munchies

If you go to any big holiday dinners, chances are there will be finger foods served leading up to dinner – most commonly calorie-dense munchies like salted nuts, bread and cheese dips. Grazing on snacks before dinner might squash your hunger for the meal ahead, so when you sit down to eat you wind up ignoring your satiety cues and enjoying the meal less than you would if you were truly hungry. If you really can’t wait, opt for a small plate of raw veggies and dip.

Be Strategic About Your Serving Dishes


According to a meta-analysis of laboratory studies, doubling the amount of food offered leads to a 35% increase in how much food people eat. This “portion size effect” means you will likely eat more when offered bigger portions of palatable high-calorie foods. To use the portion size effect to your advantage, downsize your dishes when serving tempting foods that are easy to overeat. For lower-calorie options like veggies, provide a variety of larger serving dishes that everyone can take generous portions from. This strategy offsets the smaller servings of energy-dense foods so you won’t feel deprived. 

Stock Your Plate With Veggies First

Fill half your plate with your favourite veggies before you serve up your main course. The other half of your plate is then free to add a few of your Thanksgiving favourites like turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. When it comes to those special holiday desserts that you don’t get to enjoy all year round, have a small serving and really savour it. If you struggle to control yourself around pumpkin pie or apple crumble, get creative with how you serve these desserts. Bring mini pies or baked apples to the party for easy portion control. 

The Bottom Line

The holidays are a time to bond with loved ones, so make them the focus of your celebrations and try not to stress about what you eat. At the end of the day, it’s our long-term habits that shape our health, not Thanksgiving dinner. 

To learn more about research-based behavioural strategies for weight management, contact us today.


Hetherington, Marion M., et al. “Understanding the Science of Portion Control and the Art of Downsizing.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 77, no. 03, 2018, pp. 347–355., doi:10.1017/s0029665118000435.

Ryan Stallard