Healthy Eating: Choose your food treats wisely during the holidays

Are you still feeling full from your Thanksgiving feast? Did you eat a piece of pie for breakfast the next day? That’s OK because it probably has pumpkin or apples, maybe eggs, butter and milk, flour and spices — all ingredients that a healthy breakfast might include!

But… remember most of us gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s because there are holiday gatherings with friends, family snd work colleagues. There are many holiday traditions focused on special foods and drinks. It’s challenging to pass up your mother’s or grandmother’s homemade ”      ” — please insert whatever your taste bud memories conjure up (cookies, fudge, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, etc.) between the quotation marks.

One of my favorite childhood memories is baking cookies with my mother. We baked at least one dozen different types of cookies for about a month, freezing them along the way. Then, just before winter break we would put together plates of the assorted cookies for teachers, neighbors and friends. Even thinking about that long ago experience, I can remember the smells as well as all the wayward crumbs that ended up in my mouth. I have continued the tradition with my son, although now that he is out of the house I only baked three varieties this year.

Making small changes in our food traditions can help reduce or avoid the holiday weight gain. This year, instead of baking two pies for Thanksgiving, I created one with the flavor profiles of our favorites. The Pumpkin Pecan Pie was a hit and because there was only one pie we had a lot less left the next day. ( I didn’t eat it for breakfast, although I wanted to!)

Perhaps, instead of making your “I make this every year green bean or sweet potato casserole,” you find a simpler recipe that uses fresh vegetables without the added ingredients of sugar, canned soup or marshmallows. Sauteing green beans or Brussel sprouts with shallots and toasted almonds is an easy and delicious alternative.

I know how easy it can be to fall into family food traditions — the recipes on the yellowing 3 x 5 cards are sacred. But you know what else is sacred? — you and your health.

As we age, it’s more challenging to get rid of the holiday weight gain. Think about how you want to treat yourself during the holidays. Choose your food “treats” wisely. Get outside for a 10-minute walk at least once per day. I’m not saying that you have to deny yourself the foods that you love. Just be mindful when you sit down to enjoy them…and try not to go back for seconds! You will feel better and you might just avoid the holiday weight gain. Prioritizing yourself this holiday season is my healthy eating recipe of the month.

—  Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at

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