Holiday ideas for eating healthier and eating well

Holiday ideas for eating healthier and eating well Holiday ideas for eating healthier and eating well

November 13, 20193 min read
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It’s the holiday season and that means food.  Dr. Tim Harlan, executive director of the Goldring Center of Culinary Medicine at Tulane University, has these recommendations for not overdoing it during a season of indulgence.


"I am one who believes that you should splurge on holidays, but, at the same time, it’s just as easy to not overdo it as it is to eat everything in your path. One of the main areas where people tell me they have problems is parties. This can be a pitfall because many times we go at the end of the day and the cocktail party with all those different choices greet us with an empty stomach. Eat a little something before you go. Cut up an apple or have a handful of nuts and eat them before you go."



Here are a few more ideas from Dr. Harlan to help you eat well and eat healthy at the holidays: 


1.  Make less food.  This one’s pretty easy. Figure out how many people you're having and make enough food that comfortably serves that number. Almost every holiday meal I've gone to, people complain about having to fix “too darn much food.”

It can be pretty easy to cook the right amount these days since you can purchase just turkey breasts (or even drumsticks) and don’t have to worry about having that 20-pound monster turkey sitting in the fridge saying “Eat me, eat me.” Or choose a roast loin of pork recipe instead of that giant ham. 


2. Make leftover plans. This sort of relates to Number 1 especially if you are not cooking for a crowd. Even if you are cooking for only a few, there are a lot of recipes that you just can’t make only 2 or 4 servings of. Decide what you are going to do with the extra food in advance. Make that leftover turkey into a salad, serve the dressing with meals for the next few days or even take some of the treats to work or your neighbor. 


3.  Make specific portions. I was at Whole Foods the other day and they were selling individual pumpkin pies. I have seen individual serving pies also in the freezer case at other groceries. Depending on how many you are going to serve for dinner at the holidays, this might work great for you. 

For instance, if you are only serving 4 people, then having four individual servings of pie instead of a whole pie that serves eight just makes sense. The research is pretty clear that when there are more portions available we tend to eat them. If there are not, we don’t miss them. 


4.  Go for a walk. Or better yet, go out and play some touch football or throw a Frisbee. You’ll have time while the turkey is roasting and spending just 45 minutes burning some calories will go a long way to a healthy holiday. 


5.  Fruit and Nuts and Popcorn.  For snacking it’s key to keep the healthiest things on hand for watching the football game on television. Nuts and popcorn (choose the 100 calorie mini bags) are a fantastic choice for those salty / savory snackers in your household. 

For the sweet snackers putting out a lot of cut up fruit makes for a great alternative. If you have folks who you want to treat (even yourself) portion those M&Ms into small ziplock bags. There’s great research that shows we eat less when we have less food in front of us. 


Dr. Tim Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS, also known as Dr. Gourmet, focuses on nutrition and health, and diet and cardiovascular disease. To interview him about healthy holiday eating, contact pr@tulane.edu or Carolyn Scofield at (407) 342-8809.



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  • Timothy Harlan, MD
    Timothy Harlan, MD Associate Dean for Clinical Services, Executive Director: Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine

    Dr. Harlan focuses on nutrition and health, and diet and cardiovascular disease.

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