20:43 PM

Surviving the holidays and navigating all the food

Holiday parties and dinners are a struggle for most of us. Even more of a stressor is the large variety of goodies that suddenly appears in our work areas. So, we eat and keep eating beyond hunger because, the food is there and eating is social!

Here are a few tips and strategies to get you through the holidays.

At a party or dinner:

  • Don’t go hungry, because there's a high probability you will overeat and be less likely to avoid the high fat, high-calorie foods.
  • Avoid skipping meals to “save up” for the party. It's likely that you’ll eat more than you want to because you are hungry. And you might not be able to steer clear of the goodies. 
  • Balance a heavy buffet by going light at meals before & after. Eat lean on non-party days.
  • Have a snack before you leave: a piece of fruit, yogurt, string cheese, half of a sandwich (the protein satisfies) and helps you eat less.
  • Make one plate of foods you really want. Move away from the table and food trays!!  Fill ½ your plate with veggies and fruit as much as possible. Hang out in an area away from the food to avoid extra snacking or picking. 
  • Small portions eat slowly, savor every bite. Employ the three-bites strategy. 
  • When finished, pop a mint; get a large glass of water, seltzer water, diet soda or tonic to sip the rest of the party, put on some lip balm or lipstick/gloss.
  • Alcohol tends to have a lot of calories, it best to limit to one or two alcoholic beverages per occasion. Not only are you saving calories, but you will be safer on the way home.
  • Liquors, wine, sweet mixed drinks are 150-450 calories/glass.
  • Skip the punch, soda and eggnog! Wines, light beers & wine spritzers are better choices than cocktails with fruit juice. Have a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage.
  • Choose non-calorie seltzers, tonics, flavored waters

How do I navigate the office goodies & gifts of food?

  • All day nibbling can add up very fast, sip water or warm tea all day instead.
  • Make a pact with office mates to bring snacks or treats only one day a week.
  • Encourage limited quantities when snacks are brought in. Limit to one portion per person.
  • Feel yourself going for the cookies? Have a glass of water, if you still really want that cookie after 20 minutes, have one and move on.
  • Gifts of food? Share with others.

Overeating one day won’t make or break your plan and it won’t make you gain weight. That takes days and days of overeating. So you over-indulged? Get over it and move on. Don’t fret; avoid skipping meals, and get regular exercise!

Holly Nickels is a registered dietician and runs the Cooking 101 presentations and Supermarket tours at The Summit. The next Cooking 101 class, Surviving the Holidays, is  November 13 at 5:30 p.m. in a conference room at The Summit. Call (406) 751-4500 to register and they are both FREE.


Wondering what to do with all that winter squash. Here’s one of Holly’s favorite recipes, enjoy!

Pinto Bean Chili with Corn and Winter Squash

The spiciness of this light yet satisfying chili is complemented by the subtle sweetness of corn and winter squash. Queso fresco is a crumbly, slightly salty Mexican cheese that's available in many large supermarkets. If you can't find it, substitute crumbled feta or farmer cheese. For a heartier chili, add one cup thawed frozen meatless crumbles. For a vegan version, use shredded soy cheddar or mozzarella cheese.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups chili, 2 tablespoons cheese, and 1 lime wedge)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 3 cups cooked pinto beans
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn or 1 cup drained canned corn
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled queso fresco
  • 6 lime wedges


  • Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add chili powder and cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Add butternut squash and next 6 ingredients (through chilis). Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until vegetables are tender and chili is thick. Sprinkle with cheese; serve with lime wedges.
  • Note: if cooking on the stove top, cook on medium heat until the vegetables are tender and seasoning are highlighted.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 296 (20% from fat), Fat: 6.5g, Protein: 15.1g, Carbs: 49.6g, Fiber: 13.3g, Sodium: 640mg

Summit Holiday Hours 

The Summit is open throughout the holidays except for December 25 when we are closed. On Thanksgiving Day, November 22, we are open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. so you can get your workout in before your Thanksgiving meal. If you don’t have time to get to the gym try this fun Thanksgiving Day workout at home.



Experience the Summit difference. 

The Summit Medical Fitness Center is more than just a health club. We are a family-friendly fitness and wellness facility for members of all ages and abilities. Our 114,000 square foot facility in Kalispell, Montana offers high-qualtiy programs, equipment and staff to help you realize your fitness and wellness goals.

We offer a wide range of specialty programs from kids to seniors including adult fitness programs, performance programs for athletes, senior programs, weight management and special populations programs.