The Holiday Foods Nutritionists Avoid

From Halloween to Hanukah, dietitians weigh in on the seasonal foods they avoid during the holidays, and what smart swaps they make instead.

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Healthier Holidays

During the holidays, it’s easier than ever for eating to become overindulgence. Whether it’s Halloween or Hanukah, there are just so many special treats that you can convince yourself only come around once a year. But there are always healthier options, and even shaving back on a handful of calories during each holiday can make a big difference. To see what the experts do during the holidays, check out what 10 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) skip during the holidays, and the healthier food they opt for instead.

Valentine's Day

"I avoid miniature candy hearts with 'I love you' type messages on them. When I was a little girl, I had a box of those at my plate at breakfast each Valentine's Day, and it was so special. Even though I don't particularly enjoy the flavor, now when I see those boxes in the 'impulse buy' area of the grocery store, they still pull at my heart strings."

Instead: "I include beautiful red raspberries as a highlight at breakfast and dinner. Since raspberries are out of season in February where I live, I often use unsweetened frozen raspberries. I keep to the tradition of treasured 'I love you' messages at breakfast by making simple heart cut-outs and writing a short personalized message about something I love about each person."

-Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND at Karen Collins Nutrition


"At Easter I have always avoided those white chocolate bunnies you see everywhere, even when my kids begged for one! I don’t mind that white chocolate has a few more calories, but it contains none of the antioxidant-rich cocoa solids that can reduce inflammation and increase good HDL cholesterol."

Instead: "I use the holiday as an excuse to buy and enjoy dark chocolate (healthy) treats!"

-Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Culinary Nutritionist and Holistic Cannabis Consultant


"I don’t eat macaroons. Even though they are traditional and I grew up actually looking forward to them, I’ve decided that they aren’t tasty enough to dig into my calorie and saturated fat budget. In fact, I don’t even buy them for my guests."

Instead: "I home prepare the best chocolate-covered Matzo you could ever hope to eat. It’s special for the holiday because I never make it or eat it any other time. Plus it’s worth the calories and saturated fat."

-Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, Virginia-based dietitian and author of The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition

July 4th

"I avoid creamy salads such as pasta salad or potato salad made with mayonnaise because they can spoil easily if sitting out in the hot, summer weather."

Instead: "I choose olive oil based salads, such as antipasto salad, with added vegetables."

-Lauren Manganiello, MS, RD, CDN, New York City based dietitian


"Trick or Treat! On Halloween you may be worried about your sweet tooth addiction going on overdrive! It is okay to have a piece here and there, but consider swapping low-nutrient flavored candies for the real thing."

Instead: "Do you love apple, kiwi and strawberry flavored candies? I love eating the real fruits instead, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants."

-Jonathan Valdez is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Owner of Genki Nutrition.


"Fruit pies are one food you won't find me eating at Thanksgiving. The 400-plus calories that one small piece provides would stuff my stomach so full, I wouldn't have room for all my other holiday must-haves."

Instead: "I hold out for my favorite: crustless pumpkin pie. Leaving the crust means more room for the creamy pumpkin filling that I love."

-Heather Mangieri, Registered Dietitian in Pittsburgh and Author of Fueling Young Athletes


"When I think Hanukkah I think lights, family, and a delightful meal. I am not a fan of traditional potato latkes-they are heavy, greasy and I don't find they have enough depth of flavor"

Instead: "I whip up a potato and vegetable combo with potatoes, zucchini, carrots, red onions with a little cayenne, cumin and salt. I then pan sauté the fritters in a little bit of olive oil and serve with a few options like apple butter or pumpkin butter."

-Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN of Active Eating Advice


"I avoid candy canes as they are just solid sticks of sugar with food coloring and peppermint flavoring. There are so many other indulgent treats to enjoy during the holidays. Aside of acting as a breath mint, they are just added sugar in the shape of a cane."

Instead: "I prefer to sip on some peppermint tea instead."

-Julie Harrington, RD, Chef and Culinary Nutrition Consultant of Delicious Kitchen

New Year's Eve

"I avoid sugary cocktails for a few reasons. First, the fruit beverages can add up to lots of extra calories without making me feel full. Second, it is much easier for me to drink something cold with a straw versus a 'shopping beverage'. And finally, the more I drink those, the less I care about what I eat, which can lead to less fabulous decisions."

Instead: "I always choose red wine as it is classy to sip it, meaning I drink it slower. Plus, red wine in only about 110 calories a glass, making it a calorie-win cocktail for me!"

-Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, Dallas-based registered dietitian and nutrition consultant


"Though not technically a holiday, everyone celebrates birthdays. Dragging out celebratory high-calorie meals is certain to lead to an overload of calories from sugar, alcohol and other indulgences."

Instead: "I don’t feel the need to participate in the treats of every birthday celebration I attend. And when it’s my turn to blow out the candles, I enjoy one piece of cake with friends and family."

-Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, HE contributor and president of Dana White Nutrition, Inc.

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