My (Holiday) Plate

The holidays are here, and this means a time for eating and celebrating with family and friends. For holiday gatherings the food is usually plentiful, and it is easy to let your healthy eating habits fall to the wayside. Certainly don’t deny yourself your holiday favorites, just remember to incorporate them into a balanced plate. Maintaining a balanced diet during the holidays can be challenging as protein and grain options are typically plentiful, but holiday spreads often lack in the fruit and vegetable department. Going into the holiday season with a plan will help you stay on track.

MyPlate is a tool used to help visualize healthy eating focusing on the five food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. MyPlate can be used as a template for building a balanced meal. MyPlate tips include making half your plate fruit and vegetables, one-quarter grains, and the remaining quarter protein. Other ideas for improving the quality of meals include focusing on whole fruits, varied vegetables, whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, lean proteins, and plant-based healthy fats such as avocados. This pattern of eating helps to ensure you are getting the proper nutrients and can help prevent overweight and obesity and the development of chronic diseases.¹  Here are some easy to follow examples of what makes up a healthy holiday plate:2 

  • Appetizers - Fill half of your appetizer plate with fruits and vegetables.  Then add hummus, whole-grain crackers, and unsalted nuts.
  • Lunch/dinner - The MyPlate approach works anywhere!  Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, then ¼ of the plate with whole grain and the remaining ¼ of your plate with a lean protein.
  • Dessert - Fill half of your dessert plate with fruit, then add a piece of your favorite treat.

Wondering how you can contribute to holiday gatherings?  Check out these recipe ideas for some MyPlate approved options:

8 MyPlate Holiday Makeover Tips3
Need some actionable steps for small changes to your holiday plate that can lead to healthier meals?  The following 8 tips can help jumpstart your My(Holiday)Plate Makeover:

  1. Cheers to Good Health - drink water instead of soda to manage calories
  2. Brighten Your Meal - fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables
  3. Swap the Grains - choose whole wheat flour instead of white flour
  4. Spice it Up - use spices and herbs instead of sugar and salt
  5. Go Easy on the Gravy - a little bit of gravy goes a long way
  6. Skim the Fat - try skim evaporated milk instead of heavy cream
  7. Swap the Sweets - fruit makes a delicious dessert in the place of pies and cakes
  8. Bake Healthier - use recipes with pureed fruits instead of butter or oil

Finally, not all healthy holiday tips involve food.  Focus on having fun and enjoying the time with family and friends.  This can include being active and taking walks while talking and catching up.4  A nice walk before and/or after the holiday meal may even become a new family tradition!

Happy Holidays!


  1. What is MyPlate? U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed November 22, 2020.
  2. MyPlate 4-Step Plan for the Holidays. Food and Health. Written by Steph Ronco.  Accessed November 28, 2020.
  3. MyPlate Holiday Makeover. U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Accessed November 28, 2020.
  4. 10 Tips: Make Healthier Holiday Choices. U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Accessed November 28, 2020.