Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | December 9, 2020

Nutrition Tips for the Holidays during COVID-19

As we prepare for a holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic, Claire MacNaughton, a Meredith College student who is completing a dietetic internship rotation at Duke Raleigh Hospital prepared some tips to keep your holiday meal healthy and safe.

  • Eat before the big meal. It is often tempting not to eat before the big meal to take full advantage of all the delicious foods later on. Eating throughout the day can prevent the discomfort of overeating at the big meal. Aim to at least eat breakfast. If your holiday meal is later in the evening, also try to eat lunch or a snack.
  • Choose nutritious foods. When deciding which foods to put on your plate, aim to fill your plate with mostly protein and vegetables. Leave only a small space for a carb of your choice. For example, a Thanksgiving dinner plate might be ¼ filled up with turkey or ham, ½ filled up with carrots and green beans, and the other ¼ filled up with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, stuffing or a roll. This allows you to still get some essential nutrients in with the rest of your well-rounded meal.
  • Make healthy dishes. Find recipes that are low in saturated fat, added sugars, or sodium (or even one that is plant-based!) that offers a delicious addition to your meal.
  • Get Moving! Go for a walk or play a game outside before or after your meal. Movement aids in digestion, improves your energy level, and can help you meet the USDA recommendation for 150 minutes of activity per week.
  • Take Time Before Getting Seconds. It takes the stomach anywhere from 10-25 minutes to send the message to the brain that you are full. Try to eat slowly and take a break before going back for a second serving. Allow your body time to tell you if you are full. 
  • Prepare a smaller meal this year. With COVID-19 being a major factor in this holiday season, many families have plans to follow CDC guidelines to gather with only immediate family. Preparing a smaller meal, whether that means less dishes or smaller amounts of each dish, can prevent spoiled food and extra leftovers.

While family gatherings are more limited this year, it’s important to still be mindful about healthy habits and not overindulging in the holiday meal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips on how to consider modifying your holiday plans to enjoy your meal and reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep you and your community safe.

Meredith College students Carley Lester and Katelyn Trumble also contributed to this piece.

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