How To Avoid Weight Gain And Still Enjoy The Holidays 

You don’t have to completely avoid the “bad stuff” – No really! Celebrate the holidays and still keep to your healthy eating plan without feeling like you’re giving up your holiday faves with some easy planning.

Thanksgiving is many peoples’ favorite holiday for a reason: the feast. Adding the pumpkin spiced treats leading up to that point, and the Christmas baked goods after, well, holiday dieting becomes a challenge. Though it feels like a huge challenge avoiding all the “bad” foods, there’s great news: you don’t have to avoid it completely!  

Keeping your plate balanced and making conscious food choices is all you need to make it through the holidays without ruining your diet completely. Keep these tricks in mind the next time you have a big event coming up or you feel those holiday cravings creeping their way in.  



Table of Contents 
Pre-Holiday Planning 
Start the day with a balanced meal 
Snack wisely: portion size & self-control 
Drink lots of water 
Healthy Swaps For Holiday Favorites 
Lower-sugar & nutrient-rich desserts 
Savory switch outs 
Cocktail and drink alternatives 
The Post-Holiday Reset 
Acknowledging your wins & forgiving setbacks 
Return to routine without drastic measures 
Plan for the future 
Other tips for maintaining health goals through the holidays 


Pre-Holiday Planning 

Start the day with a balanced meal 

You know how they say never to grocery shop on an empty stomach? Well, the same applies to holiday gatherings: never go to a party hungry.  

If you know the food there isn’t going to be as healthy for you as it should, try having a small, nutritious meal before you head out. Preferably, one packed with protein and fiber so you stay fuller as the festivities carry on. Start your day with a high-protein breakfast or a high-protein lunch for those evening outings to keep blood sugar spikes at bay and give yourself the energy you need to party on. 

(See also: Vegan Protein Sources: Healthy High-Protein Vegan Foods



Snack wisely: portion size & self-control 

Larger portion sizes are linked to more weight gain, so the best way to avoid overdoing it? Eat less! Too much of anything can be a bad thing, but especially when you’re loading up on holiday sweets and snacks.  

Try choosing a smaller plate, or only filling up half of your plate, to keep track of what you eat and limit the really unhealthy stuff. Referring to food labels for serving sizes is even better, if you can get your hands on them! Stick to one serving size when it comes to the really bad stuff or avoid it completely if it seems too questionable. 

eating at dinner table

Overeating often happens when we don’t even realize we’re full. It takes about 30 minutes for the brain to get the signal from our stomach that tells it “That’s enough!” Remember to take that 30-minute pause between courses and slow down when you eat to give your body time to let you know when you’re full, so you don’t get into gut-busting territory.  



Drink lots of water 

An easy way to control your appetite is by drinking more water. According to Johns Hopkins University, thirst is often confused with hunger in the brain. Drinking 2 cups of water before a meal can signal fullness to the brain, meaning fewer chances to overeat. The water you drink will take up space in your stomach in place of food, which provides a sort of unconscious portion control.  

Water can also help speed up your metabolism and aid with better digestion, so you burn more fat. Before you reach for a snack or more holiday leftovers, try drinking some water first. If you still feel hungry after, then it’s time to eat! 



Healthy Swaps For Holiday Favorites 

Lower sugar & healthier desserts 

desserts that might cause some holiday weight gain

Sugar is the main ingredient in lots of holiday meals and desserts. Studies have shown that high refined sugar diets often lead to weight gain and other chronic conditions.  

High sugar foods are also less filling because they tend to be low in fiber and protein, which contribute to satiety and fullness, as well as high in refined carbs which lead to blood sugar spikes and overeating.  

roscon de reyes 3 kings day cake with sugar

Replacing refined sugar or simple carbs with complex carbs and natural sugars can help you avoid unhealthy blood sugar spikes. Try these out: 

  • Eat fresh fruit when you crave something sweet 
  • Don’t add sugar or creamer to your tea or coffee 
  • Choose fresh fruit instead of canned fruit (syrup is often used to preserve canned fruit!) 
  • Check nutrition labels for serving sizes & sugar content and eat accordingly 
  • Replace refined carbs for complex carbs (like whole grains) 
  • Eat more protein and fibrous foods to reduce cravings & keep full 
  • Use sugar alternatives like date or maple syrup, applesauce honey, or monk fruit sugar in baking 

Check out more great sugar alternatives suggestions here: Sweet Without The Sugar: 13 Healthier Sugar Alternatives. 

(See Also: Sugar Detox: Tips, Benefits, and What to Expect



Savory switch outs 

We can’t say it enough – protein, fiber, and other nutritionally dense foods all help when it comes to dieting. Protein gives you more energy, is more satisfying, and can help prevent holiday weight gain. The same is true for fiber.  

The best way to get what you need is by eating more lean proteins and vegetable-based sides.  

high protein foods

Try to include at least one of these lean proteins in every meal you eat: 

  • Eggs & Egg Whites 
  • Greek Yogurt 
  • Skinless Free Rage Chicken Breast 
  • Lentils 
  • White Fish 
  • Tofu 
  • Beans 
  • Turkey (ding ding!) 
  • Grass-Fed Beef 
  • Quinoa 
high fiber vegetables

And add these as high fiber sides during the holiday feasting: 

  • Beans 
  • Chickpeas 
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Brussels Sprouts 
  • Carrots 
  • Blueberries & Blackberries 
  • Beets 
  • Broccoli 
  • Artichoke 
  • Kale & Spinach 
  • Cauliflower 

For more snack choices to keep handy check out 4 Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite Snacks. And don’t forget, Fresh N Lean has plenty of new, healthier snacks and tasty desserts to help you make better snacking choices.  

Bring along your favorite Add-Ons to share with friends and family so you have better-for-you alternatives on hand! 


platter of food for smart holiday dieting



Cocktail and drink alternatives 

Limiting empty liquid calories is an easy way to prevent holiday weight gain. Holiday drinks like sugary sodas, sweetened lattes and tea, cocktails, or eggnog quickly run up the calorie meter.  

Having water instead is the best choice. Water keeps you hydrated, full, and can also stimulate your metabolism which means you will digest your food faster and burn more calories. 

low calorie holiday drinks

BUT, since it is the holidays, here are some swap-out suggestions when you want to get more into the holiday spirit: 

  • Drinking your liquor straight, without mixers 
  • Swap a drink for kombucha or sparkling water 
  • Stick to low-calorie or no calorie drinks 
  • Cut back on whipped cream, creamer, and added sugar to your coffee and tea (black is even better!) 
  • Choose spirits with lower alcohol content (the higher the alcohol, the more calories it has) 
  • Flavor your water with fruit  
  • Look for low-fat or non-fat versions of favorites like hot chocolate & egg nogg 

Go for lower-calorie cocktails and mocktails like: 

  • Wine Spritzers  
  • Negronis 
  • Rosé Wine 
  • Gin Martini Dry 
  • Moscow Mules 
  • Gin and Tonics 
  • Sparkling Apple Cider  
  • Vodka Sours 
  • Rob Roy Cocktails 
  • Malibu Rum & Diet Coke 



The Post-Holiday Reset 

Acknowledging your wins & forgiving setbacks 

post holiday weight gain setbacks and wins

After the holidays are over, take time to reflect on all that you accomplished. Acknowledge the things you did that worked for your diet and take note of what didn’t. Through trial and error, you will learn what works for you. After all, everyone is different!  

And don’t be discouraged – one moment of weakness is probably not going to ruin your health journey. (Two probably won’t ruin it either!) Accept these moments as special indulgences and treat them as occasions where you got to splurge and celebrate the holidays to their fullest.  



Return to routine without drastic measures 

After the holidays, a lot of people are tempted to make their resolution to lose weight. But often, they want to lose too much too fast. Don’t fall for this!  

Realistically, your body can healthily lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week or 4-8 pounds a month. Any drastic measures like starving yourself or overexercising can have serious consequences  

holiday weight gain

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 to 2.5-5 hours of exercise a week for adults 18 to 64. Any more than this can push your body past its limits and cause chronic injury, low immunity, heart issues, constant fatigue and irritability, and other more series health problems.  

Rapid weight loss (losing more than 2lbs a week) and eating lower amounts of calories per day is associated with muscle loss, gallstones, nutritional deficiencies, hair loss, and menstrual irregularities.  

Aim to lose a healthy, steady amount of weight and avoid crash dieting if you want to avoid serious health problems in the long run. 



Plan for the future 

Your health journey is a long-term commitment. It requires you to listen to your body, figure out what works for you, and coming up with a routine you can stick to. Take what you’ve learned & make a plan for the new year!  

For one, meal prep is a big part of staying healthy and can make a big difference on days when you’re too tired to cook. Having a team behind you can make all the difference. Consider having a gym partner, a coach, or a nutritionist to help you stay on track. 


christmas workout partnet



Other tips for maintaining health goals through the holidays 

  • Only take the food you need, and start slow 
  • Modify recipes with low-fat, low-sugar, or low-carb ingredient alternatives 
  • If your diet is strict, consider bringing your own dishes to holiday parties so you always have something healthy to eat 
  • Going keto for the holidays? Check out these keto holiday diet tips 
  • Be picky – choose your favorite cheat dishes to make cheat day worth it 
  • Practice mindful eating – eat slower and sit down. Standing while eating has a connection to overeating!  
  • Remember that distracted eating = eating more. Be conscious of how much you eat! 
  • Keep this handy holiday feasting guide on your phone so you don’t forget anything! 



Holiday dieting takeaways 

holiday food

It’s tough to avoid temptation during the holiday season – especially when everyone’s offering up yummy treats! To avoid overindulging have a good plan of action before you ever leave the house. Start the day with a healthy, filling breakfast, drink plenty of water, and remember to take smaller portions.  

Go slow – savor your food and make cheat day worth it! You can also make healthy swaps in your own recipes to cut back on added empty calories and unhealthy ingredients. Better yet – find healthier alternatives that already exist in popular holiday dishes: add more brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes than cookies to your plate and dig in!