How to avoid overeating during the holidays

How to avoid overeating during the holidays

The holiday season is a busy time of year, but that doesn’t mean that your nutrition client’s health needs to fall by the wayside. Here are some ways how to avoid overeating, as well as some practical holiday eating tips to mitigate weight gain. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Between the beautiful decor, festive gatherings, and cozy vibes, there is much to love about this season. However, with the holiday season comes calorie-laden treats, beverages, and entrees, so it’s no wonder that the average American gains five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

As a dietitian, you may have clients who are worried about maintaining their weight, and how to avoid overeating or staying on track with other health goals. While this time of year can be challenging to navigate health and wellness, it’s not impossible! With some guidance and encouragement, you can help your clients get through this season unscathed and maintain a good relationship with food. 

Before diving into some healthy eating tips to navigate the holidays, let’s first understand why your clients may overeat, and how you can help them avoid weight gain.

Overeating during the holidays: why does it happen?

Food plays a major role in how we celebrate holidays and special occasions–after all, there really is nothing quite like sharing food with loved ones. However, holiday foods tend to be high in calories, fat, and added sugar, which can contribute to excess calories and weight gain. Here are some reasons why overeating may happen during the holidays. 

  • Skipping meals. Your client may be tempted to skip meals earlier in the day to “save up” calories for later, but this plan often backfires. Research shows that people who skip meals during the day are more likely to consume a greater amount of calories from eating later than those who do not skip meals.

  • Avoiding certain foods. Foods high in calories, fat, or sugar are often considered “off limits”, so when people are around these items, they may feel out of control. This can lead to a binge session on their favorite foods, which can lead to feelings of guilt and even more restriction. 

  • Forgoing nutrients. Even though holiday foods are delicious, they tend to lack protein, which is a macronutrient that has been shown to increase satiety. If your clients skip the protein, they may find it easier to munch on more foods throughout the day.

  • Elevated stress levels. The holiday season can be stressful for a number of reasons, so your clients may use emotional eating to cope with these feelings.

  • Drinking excess alcohol. While one alcoholic drink may not be a cause for concern, studies show that excess alcohol consumption can lead to binge eating.

TIP: Even more difficult when traveling on vacation? Here are 6 ways to help your clients stay on track and eat healthy while traveling.

How to avoid weight gain during the holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time for your clients who want to lose weight or avoid weight gain. However, you can help mitigate these effects by encouraging them to eat at regular intervals during the day, including a protein source with every meal, managing stress levels, and reducing alcohol intake. 

Healthy holiday eating tips

As a dietitian, you can help your clients navigate their health and wellness goals through the holiday season and beyond. Here are some healthy holiday eating tips you can provide for how to avoid overeating during this time of year.

Stay active

Physical activity is essential all year round, but it’s even more important to stay active during the busy holiday season. Whether it’s a 10-minute walk or a 30-minute yoga session, you can encourage your client to move their body in a way that feels good to them. While weight loss may not be a goal for some clients, it can help manage weight and relieve stress. 

Snack wisely

Sugar-laden desserts and treats are ever-abundant this time of year, and can be hard to resist. However, excess refined sugar is a contributor to weight gain so you can encourage your clients to snack on more nutrient-dense foods like nuts, whole grains, fruits, and veggies.

TIP: Here’s how you can help your clients break up with refined sugar.

Be aware of portion sizes

Not paying attention to portion sizes can be a contributor to overeating. To help prevent this, you can encourage your clients to use a smaller plate during meal times and read food labels to gain a better understanding of the appropriate portion size.    

Encourage mindful eating

Eating mindfully (or intuitive eating) is a great tool to use with your clients to help them get more in tune with their eating habits. You can work with your clients to be more mindful of the foods they consume, so they can better understand how certain foods make them feel and are able to recognize hunger/fullness cues.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is important to help the body function properly, which is why experts recommend getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, studies have found that people who sleep less than 5 hours per night have a 40% increased risk of developing obesity. Moreover, a decrease in sleep can increase hunger, food cravings, and larger portion sizes, which can lead to a caloric increase and possibly weight gain.

TIP: As a nutrition professional, you can help your clients get better sleep with these dietary and lifestyle suggestions. 

Balance meals with protein

If you’re creating a meal plan for your clients this holiday season, be sure to include a high-quality protein source with every meal. This will help your client feel full, which can assist with weight management. 

Be conscious of taste testing

It can be easy to get carried away with taste testing, especially if your client spends a lot of time cooking or baking. While tasting dishes is important, this can lead to increased food intake and unwanted weight gain. To minimize this, you can encourage your client to take very small bites and not cook while hungry.

Limit dessert intake

Desserts tend to be the main focus during the holiday season, and while they tantalize your taste buds, they can contribute to excess calories and weight gain. 

Even though desserts aren’t inherently bad, you can work with your clients to be mindful of how many they have and how sugar makes them feel. You can also encourage them to reach for fruit-forward options instead of processed treats to further increase their nutrient intake. 

Drink water

Sugar-sweetened beverages (like soda, specialty coffees, juices, or energy drinks) tend to be calorie-laden, and are associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Instead of reaching for those beverages, encourage your clients to stay hydrated by drinking water instead. If they find it challenging, you can have them add fruit to sparkling water, drink a glass of water with each meal, or carry a water bottle throughout the day.

TIP: This water intake recommendations guide has gathered information from global and certified organizations. Download it.

Encourage small changes in recipes

In addition to establishing healthy habits during the holiday season, you can also encourage your clients to implement small changes in holiday recipes. These changes can help minimize weight gain and overeating while boosting your client’s nutrition profile.

Baking swaps

  • Instead of butter, use avocado or mashed banana.
  • Replace sugar with unsweetened applesauce.
  • Add dried fruit instead of chocolate chips or candies.
  • Use greek yogurt instead of canola oil.

Cooking swaps

  • Instead of frying, try baking, broiling, steaming, or grilling. 
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk products, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
  • Cook with skinless chicken or turkey to reduce fat intake.
  • Flavor dishes with herbs and spices instead of butter.

Beverage swaps

  • Use club soda or sparkling water in place of sweetened beverages.
  • For dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk instead of heavy cream.

How Nutrium can help

With Nutrium, you’re able to send messages to your clients, provide health tips, suggest recipes, and be their one-click-away nutritionist. Our platform is helpful all year long, but even more so during the holidays, as you can provide healthy eating tips, advice, and support without having to wait until your next client session. 

Learn more about how you can use Nutrium to further meet your client’s nutrition needs here


The holiday season is a busy time of year, but that doesn’t mean your client’s health needs to fall by the wayside. You can help your nutrition clients avoid overeating and limit weight gain by encouraging them to stay active, eat mindfully, drink water, and use some recipe swaps. 



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