The holiday season is right around the corner and the time has come to relax, let loose and eat (relatively) freely. Big meals, baked goods and rich beverages all tend to be holiday staples, so it should come as no surprise that people tend to put on a few pounds over the holiday season.
While each and every one of us wants to be able enjoy the holidays, not everybody is comfortable with accepting that will put on serious weight this December.
In today’s article, I will outline some of the traditional holiday foods that can be made much healthier with a few simple swaps, which in turn will help you to be able to enjoy all of your favourite foods without the fear of overindulging on calories..
Let’s get started!
#1 Egg Nog
The classic and delicious holiday beverage that, quite frankly, is pretty atrocious from a nutritional perspective. Conventional egg nog is easy to pick on because it contains an incredible amount of calories and saturated fat, neither of which you want or need after an epic holiday meal.
My suggestion? Whip up your own healthier variety.
Check out my quick and easy Eggnog recipe below:
2.5 Cups milk of choice (almond, soy or skim)
3 Egg Whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup 100% Maple Syrup
Rum or Bourbon ( optional)
Garnish with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Blend ingredients and pour into a pot heated at low to medium for about 15 minutes.
Whisk to avoid boiling ( it should be hot without boiling) and cool overnight in the fridge.
Whisk it again the next day and garnish with cinnamon and nutmeg before serving.
#2 Mincemeat Pies
Another holiday classic where, quite frankly, the traditional varieties just don’t cut it from a nutritional and caloric perspective.
I highly recommend a healthier vegan alternative (pictured below) that not only looks and tastes better, but is healthier for you too. The full recipe, which was developed by one of my guest bloggers, can be found on my website here.
#3 Mashed Potatoes
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but when you take away the skin ( an incredible source of fiber & nutrients) and add butter/milk/cream/cheese instead, you are no longer enjoying the potato the way that I wish you were!
Believe me when I tell you that, skin-on roasted potatoes ( as pictured below) are not only healthier and lower in calories, but they are also far more delicious.
All you need to do is cut the potatoes into small wedges, season with onion, garlic and chili powder and roast until desired doneness using 1 tbsp of olive oil ( about 30-40 mins at 400F).No butter necessary!
#4 Stuffing – Stuffing is one of those things that consistently pops up at holiday dinners, and although it may not always be made with health in mind, there are a few smart swaps that we can all make to drastically improve the nutritional quality of this staple food.
Here are my 4 quick tips to make your stuffing healthier:
- Try lean ground meat ( chicken, turkey, beef, pork) instead of sausage.
- Use a whole grain starch like quinoa or brown rice, rather than white rice. The same goes for bread, if you use bread crumb go for whole grain bread instead.
- Use raw nuts, rather than nuts that are roasted/salted.
- Give butter the boot and use a modest amount of olive oil instead.
#5 Gravy – Gravy is another holiday classic that can be made much healthier with just a little bit of extra time and effort. Check out the recipe below for an easy home-made gravy recipe that is miles ahead of the stuff you will find pre-made.
Healthy Homemade Gravy
3 tbsp coconut oil, olive oil or margarine
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 cup beef broth
½ tbsp onion powder
Heat your choice of oil/margarine on medium-high heat and add combination of broth, flour and onion powder. Whisk until combined and cook ( uncovered) until desired thickness.
One Last Piece Of Advice
I could give you a laundry list of strategies to utilize this holiday season to help you stay healthy, but nobody wants to ruin their holiday season by overthinking about what they eat. And I don’t want that for you either. So I’m going to leave you with one simple piece of advice, make the wise choice to avoid attending holiday parties at the point of starvation. I see people doing this all the time, and it makes it much more difficult to make smart and controlled choices. Do yourself a favour, eat normally throughout the day as it will allow you to eat normally at night too.
Other than that, I wish each and every one of our readers a happy holiday season!
Andy De Santis RD MPH
Andy is a Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer who holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition. You can learn more about Andy and his services at AndyTheRD.com.