A Guide to Healthy Eating During the Holiday Season

Five local wellness pros share the secrets to enjoying without overindulging during the most wonderful (and wonderfully gluttonous) time of the year.

Illustration by Eric Palma

David Ludwig

Founding director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of Always Hungry?

WHAT’S ON HIS PLATE: “My secret is to indulge in luscious high-fat foods, like real dark chocolate and nuts, or berries and heavy cream,” Ludwig says. “Personally, too much sugar and other processed carbohydrates gives me a few moments of pleasure, and then hours of discomfort.”

PRO TIP: Pre-game for your party. “Have a snack before, including protein and healthful fats,” Ludwig suggests. “These satiating foods will make it easier to say no to seconds (and thirds) of dessert.”

Kelly Brabants

Fitness instructor and founder of Booty by Brabants

WHAT’S ON HER PLATE: “During the week, always, no matter what, I’m very strict,” Brabants says. She sticks to a diet heavy on eggs, salads, grilled chicken, and vegetables Monday through Friday, then lets loose on the weekends. (During the festive season, that means helping herself to a stack of her aunt’s famous cookies.)

PRO TIP: Cut back on the booze. “Once I drink [a cocktail] halfway down, I’ll have the bartender put more seltzer and a ton of lemon in it,” Brabants says. “It feels like I’m having a drink, but it’s really just seltzer.”

Sarah Dussault

Personal trainer and founder of SarahFit

WHAT’S ON HER PLATE: “If you can have it any day of the year, I don’t have that,” Dussault explains. In other words: Her mom’s legendarily decadent grasshopper pie and Christmas-morning coffee cake make the cut; store-bought cookies don’t.

PRO TIP: Don’t be so hard on yourself if you skip a workout or overload on hors d’oeuvres at a party. “The next day is a new day,” Dussault says.

Alexis Davidson

Nutrition blogger behind Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

WHAT’S ON HER PLATE: For Davidson, who always follows a mostly gluten-, sugar-, soy-, and dairy-free diet, the holidays are business as usual. She swears by gluten-free latkes for Hanukkah, and makes a refined-sugar-free pear crumble for a lightened-up treat. “I let myself enjoy the foods I want, in moderation, when I want them,” she says.

PRO TIP: Balance your plate. Eat whatever you want from the buffet—just be sure to “load up with veggies and protein and dig into those first,” Davidson suggests.

Parker Cote

Personal trainer and owner of Parker Cote Elite Fitness

WHAT’S ON HIS PLATE: During the holiday season, Cote fills up on lean proteins, unsaturated fats, and vegetables, so when temptation strikes—for him, it’s his mom’s tenderloin—it’s not such a big deal.

PRO TIP: Work hard, play hard. “After intense resistance training, your body needs sugar, in addition to protein, to help your muscle fibers recover. I have leftover dessert after my workout—it will do far less damage than watching TV before bed.”