Quick tips for a healthier holiday meal

Last Modified: 11/21/2022


For many, one day of eating can quickly turn into feeling overly full, uncomfortable and even ill. James Ingram, MD, PPG – Family Medicine, offers some quick advice for making small changes and listening to your body so that you can focus on what’s really important this season.

Are there things you can do in the days leading up to a holiday meal to prevent overeating or negative health effects?

Mindset going into a holiday meal is important. Many families equate food with love. Remind yourself that the celebration should be centered around the love for your family, and that can be communicated without overeating. Be excited to enjoy shared memories, participate in activities, and reconnect with old and new family members.

You can also do some recipe research. There are so many options online. Go on a search for new, healthier versions of your family’s favorite dishes. Take everyone’s diet into account and consider incorporating low-carb, vegetarian/vegan and whole food options onto the menu.

Are there things you should do the morning of to prevent overeating or negative health effects?

We eat a protein-heavy breakfast, usually eggs and bacon or an egg, cheese and vegetable omelet, and find our appetite is satisfied all day. We’re able to enjoy those family favorites we want without overeating.

Are there certain foods that lead to unpleasant side effects more than others?

Many people have increased heartburn when they consume grain-based carbohydrates, so if this is a frequent problem for you, you might consider eliminating these dishes.

Diarrhea associated with food can often be related to lactose intolerance (milk intolerance) or the overconsumption of sugar alcohols, such as Sorbitol, Xylitol and Erythritol, so be mindful of these items on the ingredients label.

Many people feel bloated from FODMAPS, which are fermentable carbohydrates. These carbohydrates aren’t absorbed well in the small intestine and end up in the colon where bacteria metabolize them, forming gas. These can come from wheat-based products, beans, and a variety of high fructose fruits and vegetables.

Avoid the uncomfortable “full” feeling by not eating more after your hunger is satisfied.

Can drinking water be helpful?

Water is essential for life and is the basis for all of our drinks. I would encourage thinking about the health effects of what we add to water. Coffee, tea, fruit, artificial sweeteners and carbonation add taste and variety and don’t promote weight gain or tooth decay. Adding sugar or high fructose corn syrup to form sugar-sweetened sodas, tea, fruit juice and coffee-based drinks can turn water into beverages that promote obesity, tooth decay and elevated blood sugar.

Drinking water in the form of plain water, carbonated water, unsweetened coffee or tea offers many delicious options to meet our hydration needs.

Any other tips for enjoying the holiday while not harming your health?

Holiday eating can be healthy. Plan ahead and don’t make a big deal about it. Love your family and enjoy the day! If you overindulge, make the next day a better day. 


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