Simple steps for healthy holiday eating
Do you usually eat more during the holiday season and find that you have gained a few pounds? You’re not alone. The holiday season brings a number of food-packed get-togethers, from family functions to open houses, work celebrations, and more.
Since it typically kicks off the holiday season, let’s start with Thanksgiving. Whether you are cooking the meal for your family and friends or enjoying dinner at someone else’s home, there are ways to make eat healthier without sacrificing flavor or tradition. Don’t feel obligated to get rid of all of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Just some simple swaps noted below will help you transform your traditional recipes into healthier dishes.
1. Sweeten less
- Make your own sweet desserts so you can control the amount of sugar.
- Try using just half the sugar your recipe calls for, and then upping the amount of other spices, like cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, cloves, etc. Then decide if you need a little more sugar.
- Omit sugar as a decoration, like powdered sugar or sprinkles.
- Beware of your beverages, which can have a lot of added sugars.
2. Lower the fat
- Use unsweetened applesauce, pureed pumpkin or pureed banana instead of oil or butter.
- Replace heavy cream with fat-free half and half.
- Use two egg whites or a 1/4 cup of egg substitute for each whole egg.
- Use lower-fat options when appropriate.
- Avoid processed foods, such as canned gravy. If you choose to use processed items, check the ingredients list for hydrogenated oils. This indicates that the product contains trans-fat, which we should aim to remove from our diet.
3. Choose whole grains
- Replace half of your white flour with whole wheat.
- Use brown rice and whole grain pastas.
- Add oats or oat flour to cookies and bars.
4. Sneak in vegetables
- Replace half of your mashed potatoes with steamed mashed cauliflower.
- Add extra vegetables or beans to casseroles.
- Add pureed peas to soups, stews and even casseroles.
- Try a vegetarian dish.
- Roast some vegetables with olive oil and sea salt.
5. Beware of sodium
- Try to limit the amount of processed foods.
- Choose dairy and protein that are lower in sodium.
- Use spices and herbs to add flavor.
6. Include holiday “super foods”
- Fortunately, many of our holiday foods are dense with nutrients. Pumpkin, skinless turkey breast, sweet potato, pecans, figs, cranberries, wild rice or brown rice and leafy greens are all packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber.
- Try serving fresh fruit as a snack, part of the meal, or even as a desert.
7. Cook from scratch
- Although it may seem overwhelming to make dishes from scratch, your body will thank you. Processed foods are higher in calories, sodium, sugar and fat than your homemade version. Scratch cooking gives you control.
- Gravy, cranberry sauce, salad dressing and host of other pre-made foods can easily be made in advance.
- Enlist help from your family and friends to help make this season less daunting and stressful, and more of a shared experience.
8. Entertain with things other than food
- Gather the family for a backyard game of croquet or Frisbee.
- Go for a family walk around the neighborhood.
- Take the grandchildren to the park and participate in some of the fun.
- Make a holiday craft with the family.
- Help out at a homeless shelter.
- Help grandparents with a chore they are unable to complete.