Your Holiday Questions Answered

I want to avoid gaining weight during the holidays this year, but the pounds seem to creep up on me. Do you have any tips?

We often have lots of tempting treats, such as holiday cookies and candy, around us during this time of the year.  Maintaining our current weight instead of trying to lose weight may be the best goal. Here are some tips to consider this year:

  • Have breakfast every day. Enjoy protein-rich foods such as eggs, yogurt and/or milk along with whole-grain toast or cereal. Protein and whole grains help keep us feeling full longer.
  • Have a bowl of broth-based soup and/or an apple or other whole fruit before going to a holiday party or shopping. Soup and fiber-rich fruit can tame your appetite so you can resist the temptations.
  • Use a small plate and stand away from the food table at parties. Fill your plate with lower-calorie, high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • If you attend a potluck, set a good example by bringing a veggie or fruit tray.
  • Remember that beverage calories add up quickly. Have ice water flavored with a lemon or lime slice instead of fruit punch or other holiday beverages.
  • Slow down when you eat and enjoy the delicious food. Visit with your friends and wait 20 minutes before you decide to go for seconds. You might be full after the first serving!
  • Set a goal for holiday eating: ________________________________________________

Groceries are getting more expensive, but eating out is even more expensive.  How can I save money on food so I can buy some holiday gifts for my family?

Cooking meals at home is an excellent way to save money, so consider these tips to help you stretch your food dollar:

  • Make a meal plan for the week using the sales ads to help you decide what to make.  Prepare a grocery list and stick to the list.  Compare unit prices (price per ounce) at the store, but buy what you will use in a reasonable time.
  • Stretch your protein foods, such as meat and poultry, by making casseroles, soups and stews with plenty of vegetables. Use more dry beans and lentils in soups and stews. These foods are rich in fiber and nutrition and very inexpensive.
  • If your favorite fruits and vegetables are out of season, check the frozen foods aisle and the canned goods section. All forms of fruits and vegetables count toward the 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables most people need per day.
  • Set a goal for holiday spending ______________________________________

Question:  I always seem to cook the same meals at home.  When I am at the grocery store, I forget what I have at home, and I bring home more of the same foods!  Can you help?

Be sure to look over the foods you have in your cupboard and create a shopping list. Ask yourself some questions.  What meals can make with the foods I have?  Can I mix the foods I have to make a tasty and nutritious meal? Your local Extension agent/assistant can help you plan delicious, nutritious meals on a budget.

Check out the ready-to-use meal plans and recipes at

For example, the “Pinchin’ Pennies in the Kitchen” publications (under “Basic Cooking Skills”) show you how to make a casserole, soup or stew with food you have on hand.

Tiny Tastes Add Up!

Tasting food during the holiday season can add up to lots of calories eaten. Consider this :

  • Taste 1: You had a piece of peanut brittle that someone brought for treats at work. (80 calories)
  • Taste 2: Someone else brought chocolate-covered cherries to work so you had a couple (because they are fruit, right?) (60 calories)
  • Taste 3:  You baked cookies and one broke. You ate a piece. (30 calories)
  • Taste 4: You were thirsty and had a half-cup of old-fashioned eggnog before your guests arrived for dinner. (200 calories)
  • Taste 5: Only a couple of tablespoons of candied sweet potatoes were left in the bowl, so you decided to eat it. (60 calories)

That adds up to 430 calories of “tiny tastes.”  Just 100 extra calories per day can lead to a 10-pound weight gain in one year.

Try this sweet and healthful treat to resist all those holiday cookies.

red green apples

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

1 cup nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. honey (or to taste)
Red and green apple slices

Mix yogurt with vanilla and cinnamon. Add honey to taste, until desired sweetness is obtained.  Rinse and slice apples right before serving.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 70 calories, 0 g fat, 3 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 45 mg sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)





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