Healthier Holiday Dishes
Although you’re not attending the regular round of endless holiday parties, cookie exchanges, and potluck family dinners, holiday weight gain is still a possibility, especially after many months spent at home during quarantine that may have already left you with a few extra unwanted pounds. This holiday season may look a lot different, but cooking and enjoying your favorite holiday dishes is still something you can do even during a pandemic. Just don’t indulge too much—at some point you will have to trade in your stretchy pants for regular pants again!
Here are some easy swaps you can make when it comes to your favorite holiday dishes and drinks that can help you prevent the dreaded holiday weight gain.
Curb the cocktails
It might be easier to resist overindulging in alcohol this year without all the temptations at parties, but many folks are still enjoying their cocktails or nightly glass of wine at home. Moderation is key when it comes to alcohol, and so is making smart choices. Having a glass of wine is always a better choice than a mixed drink that is loaded with sugar and calories. Red wine contains antioxidants that are believed to have health benefits for the heart and can reduce cholesterol levels.
Choose a new nog
Eggnog is a holiday favorite, but unfortunately, this festive drink contains a whopping 350 calories, 19 grams of fat, and 21 grams of sugar per serving. If you must indulge, choose the light version of eggnog if purchasing from the grocery store, or make your own lower-calorie version. This low-fat eggnog recipe uses skim milk in place of heavy cream, uses fewer eggs and sugar, and replaces sugar with a sugar substitute. To reduce calories even more, add white rum or bourbon to reduce the amount of alcohol per cup.
The best thing about the holiday season is by far all of the delicious cookies, cakes, pies, and candy. You don’t have to deprive yourself completely when it comes to sweet holiday treats, just make better choices. Try these substitutes that are still festive and yummy, and will satisfy your sweet tooth:
- Instead of peppermint bark, try dark chocolate.
- Instead of frosted sugar cookies, have a coconut macaroon.
- Instead of fruit cake, opt for gingerbread.
- Instead of pecan pie, choose pumpkin, apple, or sweet potato pie.
Many traditional holiday foods are packed with sodium and loads of fat such as butter, cream, and oil. You can make leaner and healthier versions of some of your favorite holiday recipes by modifying just a few ingredients or by choosing a similar dish. For example, green bean casserole contains a lot of cream and sodium and is often topped with heavily processed fried onions. As a substitute, you can make green beans almondine.
Dips are a popular hors d’oeuvre this time of year. Appetizers like artichoke dip or spinach dip are usually loaded with heavy cream, sour cream, and mayonnaise and are often paired with bread or tortilla chips for dipping, which just adds to the calorie count. A better choice is a yogurt vegetable dip served with fresh veggies for dipping like carrots, broccoli, and celery.
Stuffing is also a staple at most holiday dinners, but when traditionally prepared, it’s full of sugar and carbs. Instead of stuffing, try serving roasted vegetables such as red potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or carrots. Use a drizzle of melted butter and cracked sea salt on top.
Another holiday staple to avoid is gravy. It is just a combination of white, refined flour, animal fat, and salt and offers no health benefits. Instead of adding gravy to every dish, opt for plant-based sauces such as homemade cranberry sauce or pesto.
And finally, candied yams are basically a dessert—not a veggie side dish. They’re full of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows. Yams are naturally sweet without all of the added sugar, so just serve the roasted yams to save a lot of calories, and save room for dessert.