Give Your Holiday Traditions a Healthy Makeover

Holiday eating can add on an extra pound or two every year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of health by cutting some of the calories out of your favorite holiday traditions. Aim to lower the fat or carbohydrate content of one holiday dish at each course. For example, substitute frozen grapes for peanuts as an appetizer. Use skim milk instead of cream or whole milk in mashed potatoes and sauces. Grill your meat or use Shake n Bake instead of frying. Serve a roasted turkey breast with the skin removed to reduce fat. Make soups flavored with herbs instead of cream soups. Sauté the green beans with salt and spices instead of making a green bean casserole. Try a pork loin instead of ham. Refrigerate your gravy, then skim the hardened fat off the top and reheat it. Use less bread and more onions and celery in your dressing. Roast the sweet potatoes and serve them with cinnamon and a drizzle of butter in place of a sweet potato casserole. Use whole grain breads and pastas. For dessert, replace pies and cakes with a fruit desert like ambrosia, chocolate covered strawberries, or angel food cake with low fat whip cream.

You can still enjoy holiday treats - in moderation!

Here are some tips to keep holiday calories under control:

  • Don't skip meals. A satisfying breakfast and lunch on the day of the party will make you less likely to overindulge on rich foods.
  • When you arrive at a party, wait half an hour and enjoy a leisurely drink before you start diving into the food.
  • Look over the buffet and take only the foods you really like. Focus on foods that are simple, not fried or prepared with rich sauces. Serve yourself only small portions of calorie-rich foods. Stay away from appetizers and breads. Some experts suggest putting only two items on your plate at one time, and going back for another two when you have finished those, instead of piling a plate to overflowing with servings of everything.
  • Serve your plate with only half of your usual holiday portions, and wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds. You will probably discover that you are already satisfied.
  • Alcohol adds extra calories to a celebration, loosens inhibitions, and stimulates your appetite. Substitute club soda for alcohol in mixed drinks. If alcohol is served, have a glass of water between drinks. Avoid drinks with heavy alcohol content.
  • Some holiday beverages, like eggnog, are so full of sugar they are like liquid desserts. Consider enjoying them on another day, by themselves.
  • Make room in your holiday schedule for regular exercise. Exercise burns calories and helps relieve stress.
  • Remember the real purpose of holiday feasts and parties: to enjoy the company of family members and friends.   

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