Portion Control: 10 Tips for Enjoying Holiday Dining - Nemours Blog


Portion Control: 10 Tips for Enjoying Holiday Dining

Portion Control: 10 Tips for Enjoying Holiday Dining, by Marlene Rafferty, RD, LDN, Promise, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

The holiday season is ready to kick in to high gear. For many families this can mean family functions and friendly get-togethers. And that, of course, will include lots of amazing food and beverages. The abundance of treats and savory dishes can feel overwhelming and portion control can be difficult.

In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) reports that Americans gain about one to two pounds during the holidays.

Don’t Deprive Yourself: Enjoy in Moderation

As a registered dietitian, I often hear parents’ concerns about trying to control food intake during social events. Eating in moderation is something we should practice and teach our kids every day, including the holidays!

Portion control and moderation is critical to weight management. It allows you to enjoy all food without the guilt or weight gain, unlike dieting which can leave you feeling deprived. Below are 10 tips to help you and your family eat sensibly and work towards portion control during the holidays and every day.

1. Have a game plan.

Make sure as a family you’re laying out the expectations before the celebrating begins. For example, let kids know that treats will be there and are OK to enjoy, but that going back for seconds or thirds is not okay.

2. Don’t skip meals leading up to your holiday feast.

You might think you’re saving calories, but skipping meals leaves you starving by dinner and can lead to overeating. Eat sensibly before the holiday meal.

3. Eat slowly.

At dinner, eat slowly and savor each bite, paying attention to your hunger signals. Also, wait 10 to 20 minutes before getting seconds to allow your hunger cues to kick in and tell you if you want more.

4. Pay attention to those portions.

With a variety of dishes to choose from during a holiday meal, portion control can be tricky. So try small sample sizes of each item. This will likely fill up your plate and prevent you from going overboard.

5. Use a smaller plate.

Skip the dinner plate and use a salad or dessert-sized plate to make it appear you’re eating more than you actually are. This way, you’ll save room for dessert too! Think sample sizes again to satisfy your sweet tooth without overindulging.

6. Load up on veggies first.

This helps you fill up on less calories. But be aware if they contain excessive amounts of added fat such as butter or dressing. Vegetables contain fiber, which keeps you feeling full. Don’t think many veggies are on the menu? Offer to bring them as a healthy side dish or appetizer.

7. Choose drinks wisely.

Stay hydrated with water or seltzer. Try adding one or two frozen 100 percent fruit juice ice cubes to flavor drinks.

8. Makeover a traditional recipe.

If you’re contributing to the meal, create a healthier, lower-calorie version of your dish.

9. Don’t hibernate when you moderate.

Get active this season and bundle up for some fun fall and winter activities. Take a walk after dinner and catch up with a friend or family member. Physical activity is a great way to enjoy the company of your close ones while burning some energy.

10. Get gaming.

When at a party, include games or crafts to take the emphasis off the eating and on being social and fun.

Learn More: Portion Control and Holiday Eating

Marlene Rafferty, RD, LDN

Marlene Rafferty, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Nemours Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del.