PANHANDLE PERSPECTIVES: Healthy holiday food traditions

By Tammie Ostdiek
Extension Educator – Food, Nutrition and Health

Holidays can be filled with overindulgence. But it’s possible to avoid added calories and the pang of guilt – as well as adverse health effects – with some thoughtful planning and preparation.

Consider making little changes to create healthier meals, increase physical activity and feel your best during the busy holiday season. Here are some simple steps:

  • Choose healthy cooking methods. Plan to cook foods in healthy ways: roast, steam, broil, grill, or bake.
  • Low-fat baking. Replace one-half of the oil in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce or ripe bananas in baked goods such as cranberry bread.
  • Reduce the sugar. Cut the sugar in recipes by half and use spices like cinnamon or nutmeg for added flavor.
  • Manage portion sizes. Use a small plate and scan buffet lines to make sensible selections before filling the plate.
  • Eat the food groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate is a healthy guide. Fill half the plate with colorful vegetables and fruits, one-fourth protein, and one-fourth grain. Choose whole grain whenever possible. Add low-fat dairy options. Keep overall good health in mind.
  • Be mindful. Eat slowly to enjoy your food and be aware of hunger and fullness cues.
  • Use moderation, especially when selecting those favorite foods that are high in calories, sugar and fat. Choose a small serving or make adjustments in other meals to compensate for the added treat.
  • Plan for leftovers. Use leftovers with added veggies to make sandwiches, an omelet or a frittata.
  • Initiate active holiday traditions. Involve the entire family in fun active games, dancing or going for walks.
  • Get your rest. Make a habit of going to bed and getting up about the same time every day, even during the holidays.

 For additional information on healthy holiday eating:

UNL Food, Nutrition and Health website: ttps://

The Centers for Disease Control’s Healthy Living website:

USDA’s MyPlate webpage: