Eat Right: Holiday Lights: Tips for a Lightened-up Holiday Season

by Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN

This season, many people will receive a gift that is difficult to return – holiday weight gain. In fact, a 2017 research study in the Journal of Obesity found that a combination of changes in lifestyle cause the average American to gain more than 1 ½ pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. While this may not sound like much, it can add up over time. Blaming the additional pounds on grandma’s holiday goodies would be an easy answer, but it’s not that simple. The culprit is a combination of several choices throughout the holidays. The good news is you don’t have to accept the gift of weight gain this year. Follow these three easy tips to help you be light for the holidays and shine bright in 2020. 

Lighten Stress

The first tip is to lighten your stress this holiday season. It’s no surprise that research shows we are more likely to eat extra calories and store more fat when we are stressed than when we are relaxed. 

When it comes to holiday entertaining, stress is hard to escape. A no-cook, hassle-free choice for the host and a wow factor for guests is a cheese board served with a variety of whole grain crackers, fresh and dried fruit, nuts and of course, your favorite cheeses. A cheese board is a great way to appeal to a variety of palettes. Whether your guests are vegetarian, lactose intolerant or just picky, cheese pleases everyone. Cheese’s high-quality protein will satisfy hungry appetites and the variety of flavors and textures will delight even the pickiest of eaters. Did you know that natural cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss are naturally low in lactose? 

Go Light on Food

Stay light by choosing to eat more plant-based foods that won’t weigh you down. One of the best ways to ensure that you are staying on track during the holidays is to design your plate after the Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with lean protein and the other quarter with whole grains. And don’t forget the dairy! Dairy foods are packed with high-quality protein, which helps curb hunger and provides essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy and light throughout the holidays. 

The Dairy Alliance’s Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip is the perfect accompaniment to any holiday table. It is made with low-fat yogurt, which provides probiotics that can help boost your immunity during the draining holiday season. Pair it with antioxidant-rich vegetables for a nutritious appetizer that won’t weigh you down. Remember, the MyPlate eating method works for an appetizer plate or a dinner plate. To learn more about MyPlate, visit 

Light Up Your Metabolism 

Exercise seems difficult to maintain during the holidays, but it can light up your metabolism and spark your energy! Ignite your body’s natural calorie burn by aiming for 10,000 steps every day. Steps don’t have to be logged at the gym. They can be achieved by adding small activities throughout the day like parking in the back of the parking lot when holiday shopping, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or dancing to your favorite holiday song at parties. Or break your usual activity up into short activity periods of 10-15 minutes, 2 to 3 times throughout the day. 

Don’t forget to hydrate while staying active during the holidays. In fact, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests trading in your water bottle for a milk bottle, to hydrate best.  The researchers found that the combination of natural sugar, fat, protein and sodium in milk did the best job of hydrating participants. So, if you need an afternoon pick-me up, choose a creamy latte topped with cinnamon or a cup of warm hot chocolate made with milk. Milk offers 9 essential nutrients, including protein, calcium and vitamin D, that your body needs to keep up with the holiday frenzy. 

Stay healthy this holiday season by going light on stress, light on food and lighting up your metabolism. Entertain with a no hassle cheese board, design your plate after MyPlate and stay active by moving daily for at least 30 minutes. With these tips, you can celebrate a healthier you and look forward to a bright new year. Visit for more delicious recipes to lighten up your holiday table. 

Baked Artichoke Spinach Dip

A hot spinach-artichoke dip is always a hit at parties, and this one is packed with protein from the yogurt and the cheese.

Prep Time 10 mins

Cook Time 20 mins

Total Time 30 mins

Servings: 8


  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 (8-ounce) container low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim, low-moisture Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper


Combine all ingredients except red pepper and mix well. Pour mixture into 1-quart casserole dish. Bake at 350º 20-25 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with chopped red bell pepper. Serve with toasted bread or whole grain crackers.

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN is the Assistant Director of Food and Nutrition Outreach for The Dairy Alliance. She received her Master of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill and has been working in dietetics for over 15 years. She can be reached at