Holiday Nibbles Add Up!

By Ashton Jackson, RD, LD/N

Healthy holiday eating often goes out the window when there are delicious holiday foods to prepare and taste.Sure, we all know that our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas “feasts” tend to contribute quite the one-two punch to our calorie budget, but have you ever considered how much you actually consume before you even sit down to the family dinner table?  I don’t know about you but I, personally, have caught myself tempted to have “just a bite” of the dishes I prepare when left in the kitchen with a day of food preparation.

After all, the holiday cook wants to make sure that each component of the meal is as perfect as it can possibly be before it ever makes it onto that beautifully decorated dining room table.

How It Adds Up

Unfortunately, the habit of allowing a few extra morsels here and there throughout the day can actually add up quickly and ruin your healthy holiday eating intentions.  Here’s a look at how quickly those nibbles add up during a typical day full of holiday meal preparations:

9:00 AM

You begin your day by preparing your family recipe for pumpkin pie.  You finish whipping the heavy cream for the topping and have a quick lick of the whisk to ensure it tastes like Grandma’s.  ~ 25 calories

10:30 AM

Those toasted pecans which you intend to sprinkle on the mashed sweet potatoes smell so delicious that you just can’t resist.  You grab about 5 halves and move on with the preparations.  ~ 50 calories

That Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings isn't the only problem. Healthy holiday eating is also vital while you prepare for the feast.

11:00 AM

While slicing cheese to prepare a tray of appetizers for later, you grab a few pieces that aren’t uniform in size.  Since you don’t have the heart to throw them away, you just enjoy a quick bite.  ~ 100 calories

12:00 PM

The first batch of yeast rolls has just finished baking.  You have one along-side your lunch.  ~ 100 calories

1:30 PM

Your significant other is trying to pick out wine to serve with tonight’s dinner.  They feel your opinion matters so they bring you a glass to sample.  You’re in the holiday spirit and indulge.  ~ 100 calories

2:00 PM

It’s your typical snack time but you feel you have no time to stop to eat.  You opt to have a piece of the bacon you used to season the sautéed green beans.  ~ 50 calories

3:30 PM

The prized turkey just finished cooking and you pull it from the oven to rest.  Before you set it aside, you sample a small piece from the thigh (along with the skin).  You assume no one will notice.  ~ 50 calories

4:00 PM

The roasted veggies are ready to serve.  Green beans look like finger food, right?  ~ 20 calories

6:00 PM

Dinner is finally served.  Before you even sit down to enjoy the spread, you have racked up a grand total of approximately 500 extra calories just by nibbling your way through the day.  That’s in addition to your breakfast and lunch!

This year, let’s all make a pact to limit our “holiday nibbles” while we prepare the big meal.   Here are a few tips to help you kick the habit:

  • Eat regular meals and snacks just as you would any other day to keep hunger and cravings at bay. Avoid the temptation to “save up” for dinner.
  • Try chewing gum or having a hard candy while you cook, you’ll be less likely to taste the foods you prepare when you have that minty taste lingering in your mouth.
  • Keep low calorie snacks like raw veggies or a bit of fresh fruit out in plain sight for the day. Make this your go-to snack if you feel yourself desiring a nibble.
  • Drink water all day! Maintaining adequate hydration can curb hunger and keep you feeling full.

A registered dietitian can help you with understanding food cravings before they derail your efforts.

Adapted from: