Dec. 10. 2013
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

As a dietitian nutritionist, I get asked how to stay healthy during the holidays all the time.

Starting in October, I have clients, family members, and friends all come to me with questions about how to stay on track during the holiday season from Halloween to New Year’s Eve. I wanted to share with you all the same things I tell everyone and even myself to keep on track during the holiday months! Here are my Top 5 Tips for Healthy Holidays.

1. It’s not about the food

Food is just the supporting cast and an added bonus to spending the holidays around friends and family. Don’t make food the center of your attention, focus, or obsession. Instead focus on what the season truly is about, spending time with your loved ones, caring for others, showing and expressing gratitude, being mindful of your actions, living your “normal” life and days (i.e. you wouldn’t normal over indulge in pies, cookies, or cakes on a daily or weekly basis, why start now just because it’s the “season”).

2. Be in the NOW

It’s as simple as that. I constantly tell myself daily reminders and mantras of being present, living in the moment, connecting with my true self, and not allowing thoughts of “what if’s”, “to-do’s”, “I need to’s” interfere with daily living. The more you concentrate on being present, the more you’re able to enjoy spending time with family and friends, enjoy the spirit of the holiday season, engage in fun activities, shop, bake, wrap presents, read a book by a cozy fire, and anything else you love doing!

3. Mind-Body Connection

This is a crucial practice and should be incorporated as much as possible into your daily life! Whether it be physical activity like weight lifting, yoga, Pilates, ballet bar classes, dancing, or just talking a walk. Harnessing your bodies movement along with a positive mind set will set you up for success, positivity and will also come in handy around food.

Exercising mindful eating is a true practice and power once you’ve gotten nailed down, constantly check in with yourself and ask how truly hungry you are. What is it that you’re hungry for? Is it happiness, sadness, stress, anxiousness, or are you truly hungry for food? We eat for so many reasons in our society, but having a strong mind-body connection will help you tremendously in figuring out what you are TRULY hungry for.

4. Plan ahead

Batch Cooking 101 is my secret weapon (okay not so secret) throughout the holiday season when going out, socializing, traveling, etc.; it’s a way to keep your meals/snacks planned a bit ahead of time so you can breathe and create space for other things you enjoy doing this holiday season. No excuses of “falling off the wagon”, you make the choice to either prepare or plan, whether to engage in exercise and the mind-body connections, or to eat something you know is not bringing you closer to your goals and path. So set yourself up with success!


Oh yesss, the powers of vegetables during any time of year, but especially around the holiday season when you’re eating more dense foods (both digestibility and calorically). Veggies are a great way to create a lot more volume in a dish to make you feel like you’re eating a lot more than you actually are. They’re full of water, fiber, nutrients galore, and taste amazing when prepared in a way you love.

  • Try this! Try adding in a raw vegetable salad, raw veggie sticks, etc., to the very start of your meals (especially the ones you find are more calorically dense) and eat these first! This will not only allow your bodies natural hunger cues to register a bit faster because the action of chewing vegetables takes a lot longer than a spoon full of mashed potatoes, but it will also be easier on your digestion and fill you up quicker! You’ll be saving yourself from over-consuming calories you normally wouldn’t just by adding in veggies.

With so much love and gratitude,

xo McKel