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Three ways to eat healthier this holiday season—while still having fun

University of Minnesota Health Clinical Dietician Shannon Johnson Jannatpour walks us through three tips for eating healthier during the holiday season without minimizing your enjoyment.
Maybe Millenials are onto something. University of Minnesota Health Clinical Dietitian Shannon Johnson Jannatpour recommends taking photos of your holiday meals as a method of tracking caloric intake and encouraging weight loss.

The holidays can be a wonderful time to relax, spend time with family and friends and—of course—eat.

For those of us watching the scale, the holiday season can also bring extra stress with a side of regret—but it doesn’t have to, according to University of Minnesota Health Clinical Dietitian Shannon Johnson Jannatpour, RD, LD, CLT. Johnson Jannatpour works in the University of Minnesota Health Weight Loss Management and Surgery.

We asked her to share three tips that we can keep in mind this year when gathering around the dinner table.

Take a picture of your meal.

Maybe the Millenials are on to something. Dietitians often encourage people to record what they eat, and there is solid scientific research to support the benefits of this practice. Studies show people who record what they eat—even if they do not have a specific caloric goal—tend to eat fewer calories and lose weight. However, if logging meals isn’t your style, just bring your cell phone with and take a photo of your meals. Recent research found that photographing your food throughout the day can improve awareness and promote healthier choices and proper portions, leading to weight loss. Johnson Jannatpour said some patients begin to see this as an artistic outlet instead of a daunting task. “It seems to promote creativity as people arrange the food on their plate, even adding more fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Learn more about our Weight Loss Management and Surgery services.


Sometimes, we have to look back before we can move forward. While we all love a delicious pumpkin pie, Johnson Jannatpour recommends doing more with less. Try baking pies without a crust to keep a few calories off your plate. If that is not your style, try simplifying your celebrations by cutting out a few high-fat, high-carbohydrate dishes, like mashed potatoes or stuffing. Instead, fill your plate with vegetables and lean protein. If you decide to have dessert, be selective and look for those that are “worth their weight” in calories, like a good piece of fudge, she said. After that, stay clear of the dessert table.

Celebrate Each Other — Not Your Meals. 

It’s easy for food to steal the spotlight during the holidays. But for many, the holidays are really about spending time with those you love. This year, make an effort to surround yourself with the positive people in your life, Johnson Jannatpour said. Try to make your gathering an experience by creating good memories.  Bring fun games to play for kids and adults. Encourage party-goers to bring instruments and show off some of their musical talents. Organize a more physically active day that includes ice skating or a walk outside. If we organize our holidays around each other instead of the dessert table, keeping to that New Year’s Resolution a few weeks later may be a lot less daunting.