How to Keep Off the Holiday Pounds

Nutritionist Jillian Ouhrabka offers healthy holiday advice


Oh, yes. It’s here. The most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the most indulgent, consumptive and dessert-filled time of the year. And while I have no grievances with moderate indulgence (or a killer piece of pumpkin cheesecake), there runs a slippery slope from sampling a piece of pie to sampling ten pieces of pie. Without a plan, it can happen quickly and easily at any holiday party or event. I blame it on spirited cocktails, the carefree attitude of the holidays and the fact that it gets dark before you barely make it through lunch (somehow, everything seems acceptable after dark).

I chatted with Rhode Island dietician and nutritionist, Jillian Ouhrabka from Restorative Nutrition, on how to keep your healthy habits in check during these decadent days. Jillian became a dietician in 2007 in response to her own struggles with a healthy lifestyle. Having personally dealt with body image issues, disorders and food addiction, she was able to overcome these challenges, embark on a healthy lifestyle and now aids others with similar stories.

Like her overall motto for healthy living, Jillian’s message is to moderate during the holidays (and not try to lose weight, but to just maintain). If you want to eat something, eat it, but eat less. She tells us that the most popular unhealthy habit, especially during the holidays, is that people tend to overeat by taking more food than they need, which leads to overconsumption, weight gain and guilt. Complete deprivation will also only lead to binging and it’s better to have some than none, to satisfy that craving.

The holidays are about enjoying your friends, family and the foods you look forward to. If you moderate, eat mindfully, fill up on mostly fruits and vegetables, continue to exercise, and avoid “shoveling” food in, you can have a happy, healthy and successful holiday season. Cheers!


• Never go to a party hungry.

So often we think we will “save calories” if we skip meals and then eat whatever we want at a party. But in fact, just the opposite happens. You end up being
so hungry that you overeat and consume more calories. Stick to your regular eating schedule, and have a small snack before you go to a party.

• Bring a healthy dish to a party. Ensure that you will have at least one healthy option at a party by bringing a big vegetable or fruit salad, veggies and hummus, a grilled chicken or fish dish or a healthy casserole

• Don’t deny yourself foods. If you do, you will want it more! Instead, take small portions of the foods you really want and savor every minute. Tip: Skip the foods you can get all the time and instead indulge in the treats you don’t have the rest of the year (i.e. pumpkin pie, your grandma’s cheesecake and your dad’s famous stuffing).

• Stay active. Exercise will not only help keep extra weight off, but it can help you handle the added stress of the holidays. Aim to exercise at least three days a week for 30-45 minutes. Tip: Make exercise social – invite friends or family to walk with you after a big holiday meal. Or, instead of meeting friends for lunch, opt for a walk or go shopping to stay active

• Buffet tables: browse before you decide. Give the table a quick look, fill your plate with mostly vegetables and fruit, and then go for lean chicken, turkey, shrimp or fish dishes. Have small portions of the less healthy options, savor every bite and remember you can always go back for more.

• Enjoy your food. Eat it slowly and mindfully. Pause between bites and talk during meals so you are less likely to overeat.

• Ask for dips and sauces on the side – you can save hundreds of calories by adding dressing to salad yourself or dipping items in sauce.

• Cut servings into smaller sizes than what is recommended.

• Drink water between meals to help you feel full and eat less.

• Lastly, make the holidays about being together and not all about eat- ing. Plan active activities such as ice skating, walks and shopping to spend time together.



• Anything with hummus or salsa. These are healthy, yet delicious, foods that go great with a variety of items, including vegetable sticks, crackers, fruit (try mango, pineapple or apples) or wholegrain tortillas.

• Grilled chicken skewers. This is an easy, and relatively healthy dish – simply grill chicken, place on skewers and pair with a variety of dipping sauces (bbq, honey mustard, teriyaki and buffalo sauce).

• Oven-roasted vegetables. Simply dice onions, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, asparagus and any other vegetables you like. Place veg- etables in a bowl, coat with olive oil, add rosemary herbs and any other seasoning you like, pour into glass pan and bake in oven for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees.



My favorite healthy meal is a Peanut Butter Stir Fry. Put one cup diced carrots, two cups broccoli and one me-dium onion in a frying pan with a little bit of water, onion powder, pepper and garlic powder. As the vegetables cook, alternate adding water with rice vinegar. Next, add about four cups of whole pea pods and one can of sliced water
chestnuts. Let this cook for a few minutes, and then add about four tablespoons peanut butter, three tablespoons soy sauce and a little buffalo sauce. Let the sauce mix with the water/rice vinegar to coat the veggies, add some crushed cashews and serve over a bed of rice noodles or brown rice.



• Pumpkin pie made with Greek yogurt

• Fruit dipped in chocolate

• Baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg



• You and your kids should eat regular, healthy meals and snacks during the holidays so you don’t overdo it on sweets.

• Help your child make a dessert decision – if they want to try everything, cut tiny pieces of each thing or share a few desserts with them.

• You can help your kids eat less candy and dessert at holiday parties by ensuring they sit down at the table to eat and are not running around while eating.