A plate of food with vegetables

Tips to Avoid Overindulging on Holiday Treats

One of the many pastimes of the holiday season is coming together with family and friends to share a meal with all kinds of savory foods and treats.

Dr. Maria Azrad, assistant professor in the department of human nutrition and hospitality management at UA, has several healthy eating tips to keep in mind as you prepare to feast on your favorite foods.

Don’t go into the holiday season thinking you’ll lose weight.

Instead, work to maintain your current weight. “With numerous holiday parties going on, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure,” said Azrad. “Go into the season with a mindset of having a good time and maintaining your weight. That is a good goal to have.”

Eat a small, healthy snack before arriving to the event so you don’t set yourself up to overeat.

Azrad describes this as a similar tactic to not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

Drink a glass of water before you eat to help fill your stomach.

Be discreet if you are trying to watch what you eat. “It’s best not to draw attention to yourself to avoid any possible peer pressure,” said Azrad.

Use a dessert plate during your first trip through the food line.

“If you start with the bigger dinner plate, you’re more likely to fill it with excess food you don’t really need,” said Azrad. “But if you feel uncomfortable doing this, go with the dinner plate but give yourself smaller portions than necessary to fill up the plate.”

Always start by adding the vegetables and protein when choosing foods and then the foods you know are higher in calories.

Don’t hold back from eating your favorite foods but start with vegetables and protein. Cheese and lean meat are good choices. If you know they aren’t the healthiest, eat those in smaller portions and don’t deprive yourself.

Avoid overeating.

“As humans, we typically overeat at almost every meal because we take in more calories than we need at that point and we store calories to get us through until the next meal or overnight,” said Azrad. “Chronic consumption of excess calories from any of the macronutrients such as fat, carbohydrates and protein can not only result in weight gain, but it can also result in fat accumulation in the liver which is linked with increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Limit alcohol intake.

Alcoholic beverages add calories to your diet just like food. A standard serving of wine or beer can have 120 and 150-300 calories, respectively. There is a broad range of calories for mixed drinks depending on the mixer and specific alcohol but typically these beverages can add as much as 100 to 300 calories per serving.

Avoid eating empty calories.

Try to consider limiting foods like crackers and chips. These foods tend to be higher in calories and lower in important nutrients like vitamins and minerals that are found in vegetables, fruit and protein. Also, these foods tend to be consumed along with other high calorie items like spreads and dips, which are high in fat and compound the caloric intake.


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications, bryant.welbourne@ua.edu