You are using an unsupported browser. Please use the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge.
Healthy Holiday Suggestions

Expert Advice

Healthy Holiday Suggestions

Check out these tips from a Mass General nutritionist to make it through the holidays without any scale-related surprises.

Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN
December 2, 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Make something you can rely on as a healthy option. This way you’ll be able to balance out some of the other festive foods.
  • Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you are cooking, try to offer several appetizers or sides that contain fruits or vegetables: they help fill you up and provide a nice counterpoint to holiday cookies.
  • Set out small plates. This helps to limit how much food can be added at one time.

Quick Holiday Appetizers


Bruschetta consists of thin slices of toasted bread (baguette-sized) with a small amount of a sauce, spread, or prepared vegetable on top. The topping combinations are endless. Try diced tomatoes with basil and balsamic vinegar; sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta cheese; cranberry spread and blue cheese; or white beans tossed with roasted red peppers, rosemary, and feta cheese. Why it works: Think of bruschetta as a mini open face sandwich that you can put fruit and vegetables on.

Stuffed figs

Slice a fig in half and place about a teaspoon of a strong cheese (like blue cheese or feta) on each half. Drizzle the figs with honey and arrange the fig halves on a platter. Alternatively, you could also broil the figs for a few minutes to slightly caramelize them and melt the cheese. Why it works: The strong flavor means a little can go a long way in helping you feel satisfied. You’ll also get a bit of fruit with every bite.

Shrimp is a great source of protein. It is also fairly low in calories.
Shrimp is a great source of protein. It is also fairly low in calories.

Fruit and cheese platter

Select easy-to-eat fruits like grapes, strawberries, figs and apricots. Plan on 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per person. (1 ounce of cheese is about the size of 4 dice and contains approximately 100 calories.) If selecting multiple cheeses, try to vary the tastes and textures. For instance, you may pair a mild cheese (like a cheddar, gouda, or brie) with a goat or sheep’s milk cheese and a stronger cheese (like a stilton or other blue-veined cheese). Why it works: It’s a simple dish that requires no cooking, just assembling. Looking for something sweeter? Try chocolate-dipped fruit instead.

Veggies and dips

Sugar snap peas, carrots, celery, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower and cucumbers are all very dippable. Pair them with hummus or a vegetable dip prepared with Greek yogurt and herbs. Why it works: It doesn’t require much elbow grease in the kitchen and is an easy way to ensure vegetables make a guest appearance at the holidays.

Shrimp cocktail

If you are short on time, you can often buy already cooked shrimp (found in the frozen food section). Cocktail sauce is easy to make or buy and contains simple ingredients like ketchup, lemon juice, and horseradish. Why it works: Shrimp is a great source of protein. It is also fairly low in calories (one shrimp has about 15 calories, as does one tablespoon of cocktail sauce)

Prosciutto-wrapped produce

Both fruits and vegetables can be wrapped in prosciutto for a quick, elegant appetizer. Grilled or roasted asparagus can be chilled and then wrapped with a piece of prosciutto. Fig halves and melon slices are also frequently wrapped in prosciutto. Why it works: Like many of the other options listed, it is an easy way to ensure that produce will be around during the holiday.

Emily Gelsomin, RD, LDN
Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN

Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN, is a senior clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a registered dietitian, she counsels on medical nutrition therapy on an outpatient basis and is co-director of Be Fit, the hospital’s employee wellness program.

Jointly sponsored by The Clubs at Charles River Park and MGH Nutrition and Food Services, the 10-week program focuses on helping participants “Be Fit and Eat Right.” Every ten weeks, employees from different departments within the hospital compete with each other as they make a commitment to Be Fit. Through the creation of a social environment at the workplace, participants are supported to make progress in personal lifestyle changes with the help of a unique support system that includes a dedicated nutritionist and personal trainer.

Be Fit strives to create a milieu of wellness that extends beyond the 10-week curriculum by offering features to those who are not part of the intensive program. This includes the creation of Choose Well, Eat Well, a rating system designed to help both employees and patients increase awareness of healthy choices at retail eateries within the hospital. They also publish a timely nutrition tip each month.