Ellie Krieger’s Healthy Holiday Tips

Featured Article
on December 1, 2008
Nigel Barker

Food Network star Ellie Krieger may be a registered dietitian, but that doesn't mean she's no fun at the holidays. We asked her to help us find the balance between enjoyment and overindulgence during the season.

What family recipes do you make this time of year? Do you modify them so that they're healthier? I bake my grandmother's butter cookies in their full-fledged buttery glory. I also make potato latkes every year. My strategy is to enjoy these specialties in small amounts. So if I want butter cookies, I'm not going to have a dozen. I'm going to sit down with two cookies and a cup of coffee or a homemade skinny latte and savor them.

How do you get your 6-year-old, Bella, involved in the kitchen? One of my joys as a parent is passing down my love of food and cooking, and I do that with Bella on a regular basis. We particularly love making pancakes together and the holidays allow extra family time to do things like that.

You're starving, and the buffet table awaits. What do you do? My key is to "plan and scan." Before I start randomly eating, I check out the menu. Then, I decide what I just have to have. I also ask around about what's really worth tasting. I try to fill up on things like vegetables or steamed shrimp, but I do make room for a couple of indulgences. My rule of thumb is to only eat it if it's outstanding—and then, enjoy every morsel.

How do you keep from grazing when there's a ton of snacks around? I make a point to not stand next to the food because I tend to nibble unconsciously, like crunching away on the chips and dip even though I'm not really hungry or it's not really what I want to eat at that moment. And if people are dancing, I go toward that end of the party.

You're hosting a holiday party. What's on the menu? I like to have variety, so I make three different types of chili—confetti chili, with beef, corn and other vegetables; white chili with turkey, white beans and tomatillos; and vegetarian black bean chili. I'll have all the fixin's so when guests come in, they can just build their own bowl.

If someone's trying to lose weight, how should they approach the holidays? I would say first of all, don't try to lose weight during the holidays—just aim to maintain your weight. And allow yourself one real indulgence a day. You don't want to feel deprived. If you're going to parties at night, don't starve yourself during the day, but try to eat mostly vegetables and lean proteins and low-fat dairy—things you're probably not going to get at a party. Save up your carbs and fat, but when you get to the party, don't go crazy. And keep an eye on alcohol because the calories really add up. Plus, it makes you feel like, "Oh, what the heck." Maybe every other drink have a sparkling water.

What are your holiday guilty pleasures? I'm a sucker for chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy—I love savory food.

What about wine or champagne? I don't save that for the holidays—I drink champagne all year long!