Keep It Healthy This Holiday Season

How to eat healthy and have fun while being festive
holiday eating

Winter holidays usually bring parties with friends and family. These gatherings are typically centered around plenty food that isn’t exactly the healthiest. Cookies, cakes, pies and other treats are a frequent holiday temptation and it often seems like you can either have fun and indulge or stick to a heathy diet. But remember, you don’t have to choose! There are a lot of ways to make healthy choices while enjoying your holiday parties.

First, as always, focus on making the majority of your meals healthy by basing them around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, while adding in treats every once in a while. This way, you can indulge a little without feeling too guilty.

When you’re at holiday parties, you have lots of options, whether you’re hosting or simply attending. Try out these tips at your next holiday party:

  • For beverages, stick to drinking mostly water or sparkling water (try adding sliced fruit or berries for flavor!) and limit sugary drinks such as soda, juice, and sports drinks.
  • Aim to make half of your plate fruits and veggies; put the fruits and veggies on your plate first and fill the rest in with lean protein and whole grains.
  • Limit foods high in solid fats and sodium such as gravy, full-fat cheeses, and high-fat meats.
  • Try not to mindlessly eat. Stand away from the food table and participate in other activities.
  • Focus on the company rather than the food. Chat and catch up with family and friends.
  • Use a smaller plate. We tend to fill up our plates no matter what size they are.
  • Have a healthy snack or meal before you go to the party, so that you aren’t overly hungry when you get there.
  • Bring your own healthy dish to share with family and friends. Try whole grain side dishes, lean proteins, or healthier baked goods made with applesauce or mashed banana in place of some of the fat and sugar.

Try this healthy and flavorful side dish, full of whole grains and fruit, to share at your next holiday party.


Brown Rice Pilaf with Sage, Walnuts and Dried Fruit

(This recipe is originally from the USDA’s What’s Cooking website.)

Servings: 8


  • Canola oil cooking spray (as needed)
  • 1 onion (medium, chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (small, ends trimmed and chopped)
  • 2 cups brown rice (uncooked)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (fat-free, reduced sodium)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (dark)
  • 1/4 cup apricots (dried, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (chopped, optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sage (dried)
  • 2 teaspoons sage (fresh, chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)


  1. Spray the large skillet with canola oil cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium heat.
  2. Sauté onion and celery until tender, about 5 minutes. Add brown rice and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add water, broth, raisins, and apricots; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 50 minutes.
  4. Stir in walnuts if desired, sage, salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with fresh sage and serve immediately.

Nutrition info for 1/8 of recipe: 212 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 34mg sodium, 44g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 6g sugar, 0g added sugar, 6g protein



Anna Boudreau Supports Extension

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Anna Boudreau
State Advisory Council Chair, Natural Resources Steward and NH Coverts Cooperator