Make your Meals Merry (and healthy)!

The holiday season is in full swing and it seems everywhere you look you’ll find festivities, friends, food, and more food! With all the traditional recipes, sugary delights and holly jolly beverages, it can be a real challenge not to go overboard. So is there any way to fully enjoy the season without fully disregarding your current eating plan or adding inches to your waist line? Absolutely. Read on for a few tips on how to be merry and mindful this season.

In the Kitchen:

Holiday recipes are known for their bold and rich flavors. Luckily, there are many ways to capture the full flavor you love with less calories, less fat, and less salt, etc. Here are a few alternatives for some staple holiday ingredients.

  • Choose low-sodium and reduced sodium, low-fat and reduced-fat products when available.
  • Go for milk-based soups instead of cream-based soups.
  • Try turkey bacon, Canadian bacon or smoked turkey instead of regular bacon.
  • With baked goods, substitute unsweetened applesauce for ½ of the called-for butter, oil or shortening.
  • Try avocado puree when a recipe calls for butter, especially for chocolate treats.
  • Select Cacao nibs for chocolate chips.
  • When using your pans, coat with cooking spray instead of butter or oil.
  • Pass on the regular cream, select fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk.
  • When a recipe calls for cream cheese, go for fat-fee or low-fat cream cheese.
  • Try whole wheat flour or almond flour for ½ of the called-four All Purpose flour in your recipes.
  • Instead of a whole egg, use two egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute.
  • Use half of the called-for sugar in your recipes and bump up the vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon instead.

At the Party

This is when most of us get in trouble. Since we may not know what’s on the menu, we don’t have a plan for what we will and won’t eat. More often than not, we end up trying anything and everything that’s being served. Instead, try to be mindful of the food choices you make during the celebration.

  • When the appetizers are being served, choose crunchy veggies like carrots, celery and broccoli instead of heavier finger foods like nuts, cheeses and charcuterie.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. However, if you are going to celebrate by partaking in an adult beverage, stick with a glass of wine or a beer. Holiday drinks like Eggnog (with Bailey’s) have a lot of extra calories.
  • Downsize your plate. If you have a large plate, you’ll be tempted to fill it. By selecting a smaller plate, you can save significantly calories.
  • Take smaller bites and take your time. When you nibble and allow yourself the time to enjoy each bite, you will eat less and fill up more quickly.
  • Opt for a hot tea instead of dessert. This season comes with a lovely array of seasonally spiced teas. You’ll feel festive while still enjoying your favorite holiday flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves.

In your Free Time:

  • Dedicate 20-to-30 minutes a day for a brisk walk. That simple activity will accelerate your heart rate and burn a few extra calories that you may be eating over the holidays.

Be Gentle with Yourself

It’s is the holidays after all. So if you’ve eaten a meal large enough for the entire, “12 Days of Christmas,” don’t think “Well I’ve already blown it, I may as well grab these extra cookies, a slice of pumpkin pie and more hot chocolate.” It’s just one meal. Simply regroup and return to your mindful eating. And remember if you need to splurge, splurge on something you really like and make sure it’s a treat. (i.e. Don’t have a bowl of peppermint ice cream every single night during the season. Then it’s no longer a treat, it’s a habit.)

Keeping these tips in mind as you celebrate the season will put you well on your way to a happy and healthy holiday.