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Holiday Weight: Maintain, Don’t Gain

Ten tips to help you enjoy your favorite holiday foods

Family preparing healthy food in the kitchenMeal-time traditions are a big part of the holidays, so it’s natural to ignore weight gain concerns. But that’s not always a good recipe for healthy living.

Holiday weight gain can feel like an unwanted tradition. Many of us are already starting the season with some extra pounds because of the ‘quarantine fifteen,’ gained because of too much idle time. During the holiday season, it can be difficult and sometimes unrealistic to lose weight. With Christmas and other holidays just around the corner, temptations of unhealthy food choices and traditions are common. Right now, maintaining your weight can be a more realistic goal.

Here are ten tips for maintaining your weight:

  1. Plan: If you know you'll be eating a larger meal with your household, make smart choices before the meal. Have a snack before dinner, such as a piece of fruit or dry cereal. Feeling hungry can sabotage your efforts.

  2. Just a taste: Be selective and choose the foods you want. Often just a taste will satisfy cravings. Remember to only be around food when you are sitting down to eat.

  3. Conversation is calorie-free: Take the time to catch up with your household. Schedule a video call with your friends and family. Remember that the holidays are a celebration of loved ones. Food doesn’t have to be the central focus.

  4. Drink to your health: Limit high-calorie beverages such as eggnog, champagne, wine, and alcoholic drinks. Try sparkling water, seltzer or diet soda instead. Alcohol stimulates the appetite and quickly adds extra calories.

  5. Burn it up: After a holiday meal, take a walk. Walking burns calories and helps deal with holiday stress.

  6. Avoid overindulging in desserts: Allow yourself one treat at each gathering and enjoy it without guilt.

  7. Eat slowly: Take time at holiday meals to really savor the food and enjoy it.

  8. Listen to your stomach: Stop eating before you feel stuffed. Wait 30 minutes before going back for seconds, and only if you're still hungry.

  9. Beware of snack foods: Choose low-calorie snacks when possible such as vegetables, fruits, or pretzels.

  10. Don't be a Grinch: Forget the ‘all or nothing’ mindset. Depriving yourself of special foods or feeling guilty when you enjoy them isn't part of a healthy eating strategy. Enjoy special foods in small portions.

Holiday Recipes from the VA

Eating healthier doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your taste buds. If you're unsure of what to make this year, try these healthy and delicious recipes:


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

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Read More

Eating on Special Occasions (PDF) (MOVE! Weight Management Program)

Make Healthier Holiday Choices (PDF) (ChooseMyPlate)

Eat Wisely (Veterans Health Library)


Updated December 1, 2020