Healthy Holiday Eating Questions Answered

Healthy Holiday Eating Questions Answered

You asked, and registered dietitian + founder of NutritionWise Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD answered! Nicole founded her own private nutrition consulting practice, NutritionWise, specializing in children and families. Today, she shares her insights about how to eat well while still enjoying your favorite foods during the holiday seasons! Check back throughout the month of December for more healthy holiday eating tips!

Q. What would you give a 20 month old and a 5 year old instead of candy?

A. My first reaction to your question is the word "moderation." As a busy mother with children who are not always in my control (at friends houses, school, camp, playdates, etc.), I know that it would be impossible to completely eliminate all sugar from their diets and our lives. Remember, there’s a big difference between added sugars from processed foods and naturally occurring sugars that are in fruits—however, there is no evidence that supports limiting naturally occurring sugars.

Many times, children who have very severe restrictions on the foods they can eat at home (like no cookies, no ice cream, no sweets) will seek it elsewhere and be unable to control themselves when confronted with these foods. It’s very important to teach kids to have a healthy relationship with food and that all foods can be included in a healthy diet (back to the concept of moderation). If your kids are eating a lot of candy with artificial colors and flavors, I would start by transitioning to a more natural alternative like surf sweets (check out these great ideas for candy alternatives). I wouldn’t recommend completely eliminating everything sweet; rather, offer choices that feel more comfortable to you in terms of their ingredients in moderation.

    Try these tips to limit your added sugar intake and decrease your processed food intake:

  • Try not to buy packaged foods where any type of sugar is listed as one of the first 3-5 ingredients.
  • Shop on the outer perimeter of the grocery store (produce, meats, dairy—all fresh foods); only go into the aisles for what you need from a list and visit your local farmer’s market. This will help you cut down on the processed foods in your home. I believe strongly in offering sweets (even homemade) in moderation—totally eliminating treats can create food/eating related problems in the future.

This will help you cut down on the processed foods in your home. I believe strongly in offering sweets (even homemade) in moderation—totally eliminating treats can create food/eating related problems in the future.

Q. What are three staple items we should pass on for the holiday and three we should eat?

A. This rule of thumb is applicable to eating throughout the year in addition to the holiday season. Rather than focusing on specific foods, dishes, or ingredients, I would like to suggest a broader category of foods to include and avoid to maximize your health.


1. Foods that are out of a can (may contain BPA, which has been linked to many adverse health effects).

2. Foods with artificial colors/preservatives (linked to behavioral issues in children among other health issues).

3. Deep fried foods (high levels of saturated fats and trans fats).


1. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables (include them in appetizers, main courses, and even desserts—make a goal to eat one from each color every day!).

2. Healthy fats (olive oil instead of butter, avocado in salad, salmon as an alternative to a main course, nuts served in a salad or in a baked good).

3. Dark chocolate—the real stuff! If you plan to indulge, eat the good stuff. Research shows that dark chocolate is heart healthy and promotes healthy circulation.

Q. Is there any holiday dessert that's somewhat healthy?

A. As I mentioned above, everything in moderation! Holidays are a time when family and friends come together to celebrate many different wonderful things. Food is intertwined in so many of our holiday traditions. Some of these holiday foods only come around once per year and, for many, these are long-time favorites! If pumpkin pie is your favorite, enjoy it! Just don’t overdo it. Embrace mindful eating and stay present while you enjoy your dessert. Notice the nuances in taste. Try to let go of any guilt that you may feel, and tune into your intuitive signals of hunger and fullness. This will help you eat a small amount of a favorite dessert and be satisfied with that!

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.