It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Maybe not for your waistline. As a firm believer in moderation, I look forward to those special holiday treats that only come around once a year. (Hello, fudge, cookies, and eggnog!) Here’s how to enjoy your seasonal favorites while balancing your health goals.
Eating at Holiday Parties
It’s easy to overindulge when socializing with your friends and family. While making the rounds, you grab a handful of snacks each time you walk by the food table and before you know it, well, you’re stuffed.
Try drinking a glass of water before the party or as soon as you arrive. This is calorie-free and will begin to fill up your stomach before taking that first bite.
From there, be mindful of what foods you are choosing from the buffet. Teena M. Wilkerson, MS, RD, CSG, LDN advises, “Fill up your plate with veggies and eat those first.” Believe it or not, there’s a strategy for choosing the plate itself, too.
“Always use a smaller plate,” says Kimberly Brown, MS, RD, LD, “you’ll be less likely to overeat. Plus, if you go up for seconds, it won’t be as large of a portion either.”
Healthy Substitutions When Cooking at Home
Some of the most wonderful holiday moments happen around the family table. Traditional recipes are revived and enjoyed year after year. Fortunately, there are a few tweaks that you can make to your family’s favorite high-calorie dish to reduce those pesky calories. Don’t worry; even the most distinguished palate at your table will approve.
- Sub half of the All-Purpose flour in the recipe with whole wheat flour for extra fiber.
- Reduce the sugar in the recipe by 1/3 to 1/2 without changing the flavor.
- When baking, replace the oil with applesauce, mashed bananas, or baby food prunes (trust me). No changes in taste, and you can expect more moisture in the final product.
- Choose reduced-fat or fat-free whenever possible.
- When purchasing the holiday snacks, look for unsalted nuts and low sodium chips and crackers.
- If your recipe calls for sour cream, use fat-free plain Greek yogurt instead. Extra protein with none of the fat.
Celebration … with Moderation
If you’re planning to imbibe at your holiday event, keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories, so drink with moderation.
Alcohol is not the only culprit. Think: eggnog, hot cocoa, holiday punch, and soda. Drinking excessive calories is a quick way to overindulge.
“Be mindful of liquid calories. Choose a spritzer with club soda and drink in moderation,” said Julie Andrews, RD.
Since there’s not usually the same feeling of fullness as when you are eating whole foods, it’s easy to lose track of how many high-calorie or high-sugar drinks you’ve had. So, set your own limits ahead of time. Depending on the length of the event, plan to have one or two special holiday beverages and spend the rest of the party drinking something calorie-free.
With a bit of planning, the holidays can be the perfect balance between enjoying delicious treats and staying on track with your health goals. You’ll feel great about the choices you are making, and best of all, you can stay off the “naughty list!”
Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the team as the corporate dietitian. In this role, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.