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Holiday Meal Planning

Dietitians on: Holiday Meal Planning. Local nutritionists give advice on meal planning during a pandemic.

Mom and daughter cooking in kitchen

A COVID Thanksgiving left many families with weeks of leftovers while gatherings were scaled back. A 20-pound turkey for four with all the sides is a bit more than a single family can handle.

An overabundance of food causes many to think they need to eat more. Since it’s looking like we’re staying cozy and distanced for the rest of the year, dietitians at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic say we’re likely going to run into the same problems with Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Briana Walker, RDN, says knowing how to downsize a recipe is an important skill for scaling down the holiday meal.

First, make a plan

“Creating a menu for the special meal will help you with shopping and planning,” Walker said.

Adjust recipe serving size

For a recipe that serves 10, you can cut all ingredients in half.

“For more difficult math equations, there are numerous websites that help with scaling recipes up or down, like:,” Walker added.

Don’t skip meals

It’s a natural instinct to want to ‘save space’ for the big meal by skipping other meals. Dietitians like Walker warn against this. Skipping meals before a big holiday meal tends to lead to  overeating and discomfort. Eat a light meal or snack two to four hours before your special holiday meal.

“A snack or meal that is high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains and contains lean protein such as a boiled egg, turkey slices, string cheese or a handful of nuts is ideal because it can help maintain a balanced energy level and help you avoid overeating to the point of discomfort,” Walker added.

Practice mindful eating

Really learning how to enjoy your meal will help you slow down, avoid overeating, and savor and enjoy it. Once we bring our attention to the entire experience of eating, we stop getting lost in the thinking mind and become less caught up in any complicated emotions we might have around food. Quite simply, we allow ourselves to be re-acquainted with the pleasure of eating.

Here are a few tips to incorporate mindful eating into your day and your holiday meal:

  1. Ponder: Are you hungry?
  2. Appraise: Take a moment to take it in.  How does it smell? Do you really want it? Is it more than you need?
  3. Slow: Put your fork down between bites and focus on the flavor
  4. Savor: Enjoy your food. Take a moment to savor the satisfaction of each bite – the taste, texture
  5. Stop: When you’re full, it’s ok to stop eating

Leftovers, what do I do with them?

If you still find yourself with weeks of leftovers, consider food preservation. Freeze the abundance of meat, or find creative ways to incorporate those leftovers into new exciting meals. For some ideas you can visit:

Holidays meals are highly anticipated and while this year looks a little different, Walker says we can succeed in enjoying our meals and not feel overwhelmed. Patients at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic can ask to speak to a dietitian for holiday meal help, or any other nutrition concern.