The holidays are a wonderful time of year. We get to spend quality time with our friends and family and enjoy delicious food and drinks. Turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, eggnog, pumpkin pie—we all have our favorite holiday dishes. While they are all yummy, many of them are packed with calories from fat and sugar.
Here are 5 tips for making healthier choices this holiday season:
MAKE HEALTHY SUBSTITUTIONS.
Try replacing oil with unsweetened applesauce or Greek yogurt. These ingredients will help you cut calories and fat, while still giving you sweet, moist baked goods like quick breads, cakes and muffins. For the best results, use half apple sauce and half oil. Instead of butter, use avocados in your baked goods! You’re adding nearly 20 vitamins and minerals to your cookies, and dramatically reducing the amount of saturated fat. Because avocados have a high water content, adding them to gluten-free baked good recipes helps ensure that the final product stays moist and soft instead of dry and crumbly.
SAY “NO” TO CASSEROLES.
Many classic casserole dishes have a lot of calories from fat and are high in sodium. Why not get creative and try a new take on a classic recipe? Instead of green bean casserole, sauté green beans and button mushrooms in olive oil and white wine. For a healthier sweet potato dish, bake individual sweet potatoes in the oven, slice in half and top with honey-glazed pecans. With the sweet pecans, you won’t miss the marshmallows!
BRING HEALTHY APPETIZERS AND SIDE DISHES TO DINNER.
If you’re heading to a friend or family member’s house for the holidays, bring a healthy side dish or appetizer to ensure you have something safe and healthy to eat. Try steamed asparagus with olive oil and garlic, honey-glazed roasted carrots, or a chickpea salad with chopped vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette. For appetizers, try making lettuce wraps or a simple plate of cheeses, grapes, olives and gluten-free crackers. You can also never go wrong with veggies and dip or a hummus platter.
MIX UP THE DESSERTS.
We know that many holiday tables are not complete without apple pie or pumpkin pie. This year, make your favorite pie, but also include some healthier options like fruit kabobs, fresh fruit with low-fat whipped cream, or a homemade sorbet. If you want that pie feeling without all the calories, try topping peeled and sliced apples or pears with some gluten-free oats that have been mixed with cinnamon, honey and little bit of butter. Just put them in the oven and bake!
LIMIT YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.
It’s nice to enjoy some wine and cocktails for the holidays, but don’t overdo it, because alcohol is high in calories. Alcohol consumption is also linked to making unhealthy food choices. (Late night pizza and chicken wings, anyone?)
Healthier does not have to mean bland or boring. Making small changes like using apple sauce instead of oil in your baked goods, including more vegetable dishes on your holiday table, and monitoring your alcohol intake can help you keep those holiday calories in check.
By John Benson