Moderation is the key, and be careful not to serve up a generous portion of guilt if you overdo it. Enjoy the celebrations, but use some common sense.

As Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season looms, the yearly quest to be heart-smart about your eating and drinking is once again upon us. And while your goal should be to celebrate sensibly, Cleveland Clinic dietitian Katherine Patton, RD, LD, says it’s also important not to overdo the guilt either if you enjoy a few extra slices of pie in the weeks ahead.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” she says. “Instead, practice non-judgement. Be aware of your actions and habits, but avoid labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to avoid guilt. Accept what happened and move on”.

Patton recommends keeping a food journal for at least a week or two to assess your habits and to identify where to make changes. You can use a pencil and paper or use your computer. or mobile device to track your calorie intake at or

Recognize Common Pitfalls

When it comes to holiday gatherings, portion control is a challenge for many of us. Not only do second helpings and yummy desserts boost our caloric intake, but they can also result in too much sugar, sodium and fat consumption. That, in turn, can lead to elevated levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, respectively.

Drinking too much alcohol can also pack on the calories and steer you toward “dietary indiscretion”, warns Patton.

Travel, having house guests, and the cold winter weather can also get us out of our usual exercise routines. So if you’re exercising less, you’re not burning any of those extra calories you’re consuming.

Remember Moderation

Because food can feature so prominently in holiday season activities, Patton says it’s okay to participate. But be mindful of what you’re doing. “Don’t deprive yourself of desired foods during the holidays, but control portions and make healthier choices,” she recommends. “Eat mindfully and slowly to enjoy all the flavors”.

Eating slowly is also a strategy that will help you eat less. Patton adds that it’s not difficult to make healthier food choices, especially if you’re the one doing the cooking. For example, instead of setting out an appetizer of cheese and crackers, cut way down on the calories and fat by offering guests fruit kabobs. And always remember to eat turkey or other poultry without the skin.

At mealtime, Patton says the simplest formula for healthier eating is a plate in which a quarter is filled with a lean protein, another quarter has a whole-grain starch or complex carbohydrate, and half contains non-starchy veggies.

Then, Patton says, save a little room for dessert.

What You Can Do

To avoid a little weight gain this season:

  • Vow to exercise a little more each day if you find yourself eating more than usual.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day, and be sure to stay hydrated with water throughout the day and during meal time.
  • Eat a half-size portion of food you know to be packed with calories, fat or sugar. Share desserts and other treats.

Courtesy of “Heart Advisor Magazine” November 2015 Issue