20+ Tips for Holiday Healthy Eating

11-18-2014 10:17 AM

A one- or two-pound weight gain over the holiday months can be very common. This might not seem like much. But if you don’t lose those pounds and continue the trend yearly, you can see lasting consequences and an increased risk for chronic disease.

Though it might seem discouraging at first, it is quite possible to keep the pounds away and still enjoy the holiday season. You can make many small changes to your usual holiday foods to help lessen the weight gain this year. Here are some great ideas to get you started:

Holiday Cooking
Just a few quick substitutions to your usual recipes can help reduce your calorie intake and prevent seasonal weight gain. And adding extra fruits and vegetables will help boost your nutrient intake as well.

Gravy — Refrigerate the gravy to harden the fat, then skim the fat off. This will save a whopping 56 grams of fat per cup. That’s 504 calories. Add plenty of herbs and spices to season your gravy in place of salt.

Dressing — Use less bread and add more onions, garlic, celery, and vegetables. You can even add fruits such as cranberries or apples. These can give you a good dose of flavonoids to help boost you immune function during this busy time of year. Moisten or flavor your dressing with low-fat, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or even applesauce.

Turkey — Enjoy delicious, roasted turkey breast without the skin and save 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving.

Green Bean Casserole — Cook fresh green beans and use chunks of potatoes instead of cream soup. Top your casserole with almonds instead of fried onion rings for a more nutritious crunch. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats that help to promote healthy cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease.

Mashed Potatoes — Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic, and Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter. You can also make mashed cauliflower, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes, all of which are loaded with a variety nutrients, including beta-carotene and other carotenoids.

Desserts — Make a crust-less pumpkin pie. Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top your cakes off with fresh fruit or a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of frosting.

Holiday Meals
When mealtime arrives, these quick tips can help assure a healthier, lower calorie plate:

  • Always include fresh fruits, vegetables, and salads as side dishes.
  • Fill at least 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • Limit the remaining 1/3 of your plate for those sides higher in fat and calories.
  • Start you meal off with soup. You’ll typically eat slower and feel full faster.
  • Choose smaller plates and smaller bowls for smaller portions and smaller waists.

Holiday Parties

  • Remember that parties are about socializing with friends and family and not just about the food.
  • Have a light snack before you go, so that you are not starving at a party. When you are feeling really hungry, you tend to overeat and make unhealthy diet choices.
  • Sit down to eat when possible. You typically eat more while standing.
  • Always remember to bring your own dish, so you have at least one healthy option.

Healthier Party Foods
When you make the rounds at all those festive parties, here are some lower calorie alternatives to your usual party favorites:

The usual party favorite   The better alternative
Egg Nog   Hot Apple Cider
Chips & Dips   Veggies & Humus
Hot Wings   Shrimp Cocktail
Fudge   Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Be Mindful of the Alcohol
The holidays are definitely a time for cheers, but be careful of how much alcohol you drink. Many of your favorite alcoholic beverages can be full of calories:

The Drink   The Calories
5 oz of wine   110
12 oz of beer   150
12 oz of light beer   96
1.5 oz of liquor   65 – 180
12 oz Margarita   680
6 oz White Russian   320

With these quick and easy tips, you can have a joyful season with family and friends without the weight gain.

Happy Holidays and healthy eating!

Stacy Shappley is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition. She received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Texas Christian University. For the past six years she has worked at Moncrief Cancer Institute helping individuals with cancer to live a healthy life through good nutrition.