Healthy Guide to Eating Unhealthy on Holidays

Holidays are about family, friends, and food. And maybe not even in that order for some people. “Moderation is key” might be an overused saying, but it’s such a true statement. You can still give in to cravings without completely derailing your health and fitness goals.

I’m the first to say that eating gluten-free is in no terms a diet–it is a lifestyle those with Celiac, gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity begrudgingly follow in order to relieve terrible symptoms and prevent further damage. That being said, since I’m forced to stay away from heavy carbs–a typical staple at holiday meals and BBQs–I rarely over-eat or leave the party feeling lousy anymore. I think it’s the bread (rolls, buns, etc.) and flour-based desserts that usually puts everyone’s stomach capacity over the top.

My feeling on this might be biased since gluten is what caused all my GI issues, but in watching many episodes of Man Vs. Food, I’ve noticed Adam Richman often says that in competitive eating you can get more down if you hold the heavy carbs that take up unnecessary space in your belly till the end. Definitely not saying you all should go eat like champions this weekend! But I think in combining the two schools of thought, the same message is coming through: breads take up a LOT of space in your stomach. I think if everyone limited their intake of the more filling, carbohydrate-dense foods, there will be a lot more happy people walking around on Tuesday.

Below are lists of items that are typically served at BBQs. The first list is food that’s not only super delicious, but filled with healthy nutrients. The main commonality in these foods is they are either gluten-free naturally or are very low in carbs. Some of these foods I don’t even consider “special occasion” foods, so fill up on these and thank me later. The second list is food notorious for causing those belly aches that usually send you home from a party to nap, so limit them to 1 serving or even better, avoid them. Again though, moderation is key.


  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • 6-layer Mexican dip (typically beans, cheese, guac, sour cream, black olives & salsa)
  • Hamburger patty (no bun)
  • Grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, or fish (no buns)
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Corn on the cob
  • Fruit salad
  • Veggie platter
  • Garden salad
  • Cheese plate (no crackers)
  • Tortilla chips (definitely a special occasion-only food with no nutritional value, but a much better choice than potato chips. Even better if you get the baked version.)
  • Ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Popsicles

Limit or Avoid:

  • Hot dog
  • Hamburger buns
  • Hot dog rolls
  • Pasta salad
  • Potato salad
  • Potato chips
  • Crackers
  • Cake, brownies, cookies, etc.

No matter what happens at the Labor Day BBQ, don’t beat yourself up over one day or even one weekend. When you get off track, take a moment to re-focus on your goals, and plan ways to do better the next day. Take a walk Monday evening, plan an extra workout this week, and/or eat clean all day Tuesday. How do you get back on track after a holiday meal?

Happy Labor Day!

Meridith Oram
Meridith Oram is an ACE-Certified Health Coach at Below the Fork where she encourages women to love themselves towards healthy. She is married with two boys, and lives outside of Philadelphia. She earned a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. Meridith writes about FASTer Way to Fat Loss, fitness, nutrition, Celiac Disease, and easy (but delicious!) gluten-free recipes at Follow her @belowthefork on all social channels.

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