Maintaining healthy habits over the holidays

By Emily Bitter, Registered Dietitian


When thinking about the holidays, it is common to associate words such as food, family, cookies, and Christmas trees to this season. The holidays are a wonderful time of year and though all of these things are great, it is easy to put your healthy resolutions by the wayside!

There is an acronym I often use to help remind myself and other individuals about keeping a healthy mindset and lifestyle. That is balance, moderation and variety (BMV). But what exactly does this look like?

Here are a few tips to help you apply the BMV acronym throughout the holiday season to keep you on track with your wellness goals!Healthy Holidays - MyPlate


  1. Think MyPlate

Food is vital and enjoyable, but overindulging can cause the opposite outcome. Over this holiday season, I encourage you to think about the MyPlate diagram as a guideline to how your plate should look at each holiday meal.

An area not listed on the diagram is the fat/oil group. Adults should aim for 5-6 teaspoons per day of healthy fats. When cooking or baking, some great choices include olive oil, canola oil, avocado or safflower, just to name a few. These types of oils are higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which can lower the bad cholesterol and aid in heart health and lower saturated fat.

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  1. Modify Recipes

Here are some great substitutes to try when cooking or baking!

  • Healthy sweeteners: Applesauce, banana, maple syrup for less calories and more nutrients
  • Healthy Grains/Flours: Oat flour, almond flour, whole wheat for more protein, fiber and vitamins
    • If using almond flour, you will need to double the amount of almond flour in place of all-purpose flour. Almond flour is gluten free, so a binding agent is also needed (egg whites, chia seeds, flax seed) to help firm the product.
  • Healthy Fats: Olive oil, canola, sunflower, safflower, avocados, nuts, almonds, applesauce (you can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting applesauce with butter or oil)
  • Salt: Dried or fresh herbs, garlic, or citrus fruit and/or juice
  • Dips/Dressing: Greek yogurt or cottage cheese instead of sour cream or ranch dressing


  1. Sip Smarter

This time of year means the seasonal eggnog, peppermint mochas and the famous holiday party cocktails. It is important to remember to limit caloric intake from beverages and focus on getting the majority of your calories from food. The best option is, of course, water, but there are many ways you can make your water more exciting. Try adding citrus fruit, raspberries or strawberries to add a bit of sweetness. Also try cucumbers or fresh mint for a more refreshing taste. Any of these foods can be added to plain water or carbonated water!Healthy chicken dinner at Christmas.


  1. Don’t Forget Your Physical Activity

Make sure to make time in your day to get regular exercise. The recommendation is 150 minutes per week, which can be broken up to 50 minutes for 3 days or 30 minutes for 5 days a week. If you stay on track with your fitness goals, you will also be more likely to stick to your nutrition goals.


  1. Make Sleep a Priority

Research has shown that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. “Sleep quality influences the production of hormones related to appetite.” ( When the brain is tired, the reward center in the brain increases, looking for something that feels good. This leads to eating and drinking more calories. Additionally, the tendency to skip exercises increases due to lack of motivation and being tired. Benefits of proper sleep include reduced risk of health problems and diseases, reduced stress, improved mood, reduced occurrence of getting sick, and weight maintenance. Throughout this holiday season, stick to going to bed around the same time every night. Follow a nightly routine to help wind down and easily fall asleep.


Merry Christmas and have a healthy and happy holiday season from the dietitians at Tri-County!


Healthy Holidays - Emily and HusbandAbout the Author: Emily is a registered dietitian at Tri-County Health Care. She and her husband moved to the Brainerd Lakes Area about a year ago from Grand Forks, North Dakota, where they attended school. She loves almost anything that involves being outside. During the summer months, she especially loves playing golf, biking, walking, fishing or playing pickleball. In the winter, she enjoys ice fishing or skating. She also enjoys developing delicious and healthy recipes to bake or cook!

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