“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Alex Navarro, Nutrition Education Coordinator, San Mateo County


It’s that joyous time of the year again to celebrate with our family and friends. It’s also no surprise that with celebrations come rich, decadent foods – and lots of them. For those that have been working hard at eating healthy, or losing or maintaining your weight, this may be a difficult time for you. With the holiday parties upon us, some consider that overly used logic of just waiting to start eating healthy again on January 1 – new year, new you, right?

Don’t let the holidays stress you out quite yet. Rest assured that the average American gains only about one pound during the holiday season, but overindulging can also leave you bloated and sluggish the rest of the year with less motivation to stay on track. We can’t beat ourselves up for all the miniature Halloween candy bars we had, or that second serving at Thanksgiving dinner. But we can start making changes now. Let us help you stay focused…

Here are some of my favorite HEALTHY HELPFUL TIPS to help you stay on track this holiday season:

Don’t arrive to the party on an empty stomach.

This is something that I also repeat to clients when they go grocery shopping. Don’t shop on an empty stomach; don’t arrive to the party on an empty stomach. You will be able to have better control over your food choices if you’re not feeling like you are in starvation mode. I recommend a light snack an hour or two before you arrive, something that will digest slowly like whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, or a small apple and a cheese stick. This tip will help you avoid that ravenous feeling altogether.

Bake healthier by substituting ingredients.

We all know how important it is to follow a recipe especially when we are baking. But with a few simple ingredient substitutions, you can create a healthy recipe that won’t sacrifice taste or enjoyment. You may have some of these healthier ingredients already available in your own pantry. Using spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg is another way to add flavor to your favorite dessert and allows you to cut out some of the sugar. If baking for guests, they will be so thrilled that it’s homemade, they won’t even realize it’s healthier.


As a chocolate lover myself, when I found out you can make delicious brownies out of red kidney beans, I had to try it myself. You will love them! Here’s the Chocolate Red Kidney Bean recipe.

Also, this website has top healthy recipe substitutions that won’t sacrifice the flavor. Check out these easy ingredient swaps:


Lastly, don’t forget to make time for yourself.

The holidays can be a joyous time of the year, and also hectic and stressful. During stressful times, we tend to forgo eating healthy and making time to exercise. While a gym workout may not fit into your busy schedule, you can try to devote 15-20 minutes, a couple times during the day, for exercise. Lunch break walks are a great way to get some physical activity in. Also don’t forget to make some time for yourself doing something you really enjoy. In the midst of holiday cheer, busy shopping days, and children out of school, it’s easy to put ourselves last. Learning to unwind and devote time for yourself is key; even 15 minutes a day can do the trick.

Adding these few tips into your routine this holiday season will have you feeling better about yourself and your food choices. The one thing that all great food has in common is the pleasure that we get from eating it. So if you are going to indulge a bit more, remember do practice mindful eating. Enjoy your meal to the fullest by slowing down, and paying full attention to your food. Like I always tell my own kids: “It’ll taste better if you’re sitting down.”

For more tips on making healthier choices this holiday season check out this MyPlate 10 Tips Guide.

***Catch up on our past Nutrition Newbie posts.