Holiday Nutrition Tips

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  • By Gearhead Outfitters contributor, Katie Blankenship
  • Posted in food, Holidays, Nutrition
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Holiday Nutrition Tips

It’s that time of year again, and also probably the hundredth time you’ve picked up a familiar article about how to “eat a healthier meal,” or “cut back on those holiday calories.” And yet, you still push back from the family table regretting that last piece of pie and wondering where the self-control ship was even docked. How will I ever be able to turn down all my favorite sweets? And grandmas homemade rolls? Isn’t a cheat meal acceptable? There is just no substituting mashed potatoes and gravy for salad. Well, have no fear! I’m here to tell you that you can have your cake and eat it too.


In general, the average American will consume 3,000 to 4,500 calories during a Thanksgiving dinner. Woah! You may think that isn’t too bad, one day doesn’t do that much damage, right? Well, that's true. One day actually wouldn’t do too much damage; however, the holiday season doesn’t just celebrate one day. This kind of caloric consumption adds up to about 1-2 pounds of weight gain during the entire season, and this can tack on the pounds pretty quickly as the years go by.


We all know moderation is key, but let’s just first go back to the basics so we can have a clear perspective on how to tackle this turkey task. The recommended amount of calories per day for women is 1,800-2,400, while for men it ranges from 2,400-3,000 calories depending on age, race, gender, and physical activity level. If we do the math, that can be 1,000 to 2,000 extra calories eaten from a Thanksgiving meal. To burn that many calories you would have to run about 45 miles! (One mile burns approximately 100 calories.) In most cases, the excitement and temptation of it all makes our eyes bigger than our stomachs. How do we know what moderation is?


Let’s look at the recommended portion size. 


Serving sizes for food groups: 



– 1 slice of bread

– 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

– ½ cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta



– ½ cup of other veggies or juice 

– 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables



– 1 medium fruit

– ½ cup chopped, cooked, or canned

– ½ cup juice 


Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, & Nuts

– 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish

– ½ cup cooked dry beans or 2 Tablespoons peanut butter


Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese

– 1 cup of milk or yogurt

– 1 ½ ounces of cheese 


If you’re a visual person like me, these numbers might not mean anything to your concept of portion size. So here are a few more examples. Three ounces of turkey is about the size of a deck of cards; ½ cup of vegetables is about the size of a rounded handful; ¼ cup gravy is about the size of a golf ball; ½ cup of potatoes looks like a tennis ball cut in half; ½ cup stuffing is about size of a standard scoop of ice-cream; and one teaspoon butter or margarine is one die.


Look at you! You are on your way to being captain of that self-control ship. Below are some more helpful ways to prevent overeating during the holidays. Remember — there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods, just be mindful of the amount.


Happy eating! 



– Don’t skip breakfast, or any other meal during the day.

– Drink an eight oz glass of water thirty minutes before a meal.

– Eat foods high in fiber, but low in calories, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

– Use small plates when serving yourself food.

– Fill your plate first with vegetables and salad. (Watch out for those mayo-based dressings!)

– Eat slowly and savor your food.

– Wait 10 minutes before going back for more food to see if you really are still hungry.

– After a meal, get some physical activity! Go outside or play a game of football with your family. 


The United States Department of Agriculture
The American Heart Association
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Runner's World
Choose My Plate


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