Simple Food Swaps for Healthy Holiday Eating
Maybe you’ve been able to drop a few pounds recently or hold your weight steady by eating more healthfully and exercising a bit. Are you worried that seasonal indulgences might sabotage your efforts? You’re not alone.
The holidays are coming, and you know what that means—sit-down dinners with heaping platters of meat, gravy and sauce-laden vegetables, and buffet tables so filled with cheese-topped appetizers, mayonnaise-soaked salads and rich desserts that you can’t see the tablecloth underneath. Gifts of irresistible candy, cookies, pies and cakes add to the temptations. No wonder our best intentions to eat in moderation crumble faster than fresh gingerbread!
De-stress for success
Does it have to be this way? There are scientists who say it doesn’t, but only if you keep a careful notebook record of every morsel you eat. Just imagine how much fun you’ll have at holiday parties, balancing a plate and drink while you try to scribble, “one pig, no blanket, extra mustard.” Forget the notebook and de-stress to help keep holiday eating healthy, advises Jo-Anne Rizzotto, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E., a registered and licensed dietitian at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston. “Take time for yourself, even for just a few minutes,” she says. “Make the holidays a conscious thought.” By doing a little pre-planning, “you may be able to make different decisions.”
Evaluate your traditional family favorites and decide to serve just the must-haves this year. Then perform what Rizzotto calls “recipe reconstruction” to lighten the ingredients in each. “Alter the fat or sugar content a bit,” she says. That reduces calories and “you can still make them taste good.”
A few ideas for turning popular holiday foods healthier:
- Use olive oil and herbs instead of cream or cheese in veggie dishes.
- Make green bean casserole with low-fat or dairy-free sour cream;
- Replace sausage, white bread and butter in stuffing with nuts, whole grains and broth or water (if you can’t give up the sausage, opt for the turkey or chicken version).
- Choose for sweet potatoes with cinnaman and spices (maybe add a drizzle of agave nectar) over scalloped white ones with butter and cream
If you’re worried about your guests’ reactions, Rizzotto adds, “find an ally in the family, someone who can support your approach.” With your sister or cousin backing you up, it may be easier to make changes.
Emphasize the good stuff
Recent research shows what we’ve all long known, that fruits, vegetables and whole grains are great for our bodies. For your festive recipes, choose foods that do more than just taste good. For instance, pecans and other nuts rich in monounsaturated fat lower bad cholesterol, while peanuts reduce gallstone disease risk in women.
“Nuts are a far better snack than fat-free pretzels. You’re getting antioxidants, which are better for you than a mouthful of starch,” says nutritionist Lauren Swann, M.S., R.D., co-author of the Black Family Dinner Quilt Cookbook (Tradery House, 1993). Be sure to buy unsalted nuts, she recommends, or you may have trouble controlling your snacking.
Cranberries, blueberries and lingonberries are strong antioxidants and have cancer-preventive action. Broccoli, cauliflower and other cabbage family vegetables also reduce cancer risk. Even chocolate and cocoa may benefit your cardiovascular system. (more…)