The holiday season is here, which for many of us means lots of family gatherings, celebrations and food. Food is at the center of most holiday get togethers and, while delicious at the time, these meals can leave us overly stuffed wondering why we couldn’t turn down that extra serving of turkey or pie. I am a huge fan of ditching diets, which are never sustainable over the longterm, and instead living a healthy lifestyle. Holidays are certainly a time to enjoy, including the food, yet there are some simple swaps you can make and strategies you can use to have a healthier holiday season that won’t leave you feeling deprived.
Often times holiday meals are laden with carbs, fats, and sugar and we forget about the simpler things like salads and vegetables that can play a tasty part in any holiday meal. Instead of a traditional sweet potato pie or casserole with lots of added butter, sugar, and maybe even a marshmallow topping, try a simple dish of roast sweet potatoes. Cut potatoes into chunks and season with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. You could also flavor with other herbs like rosemary or spices like cinnamon. Roast at 400 degrees for 20-30 min until they are fork tender. Though salad is not necessarily a traditional holiday dish, there’s no reason why it can’t be! There are plenty of salads that have a delicious fall taste to them like this one here. The trick to using kale is to massage it with the dressing so that it softens the kale a bit. You can make this ahead of time and it’s even better. A beautiful tray of roast vegetables is also a crowd pleaser and satisfying too.
Here are a few tips for how to make the holidays, whether it’s a big family meal or an office cocktail party, a little bit healthier overall:
- If hosting, make sure to include some healthy options like a veggie platter to munch on pre-meal. Have veggies, sweet potato or other healthy carb as some of the side dish options. If you are traveling to someone else’s house, offer to bring some of these healthier options with you. A fruit platter makes a great dessert in addition to the other sweets that might be offered.
- Make sure to have a healthy breakfast and/or lunch before you have you head out to the festivities. If your body is already fueled and satisfied, you will be less likely to overindulge at the main meal.
- Drink a lot of water before your event and while you’re there. It’s great to stay hydrated!
- When making your plate, put the salad and veggies on first, making sure they cover about 1/2 of the plate, then use the rest for turkey or other lean meat, small amounts of stuffing or other not so healthy dish, a little bit of cranberry sauce or gravy.
- If going for seconds, try to go for the veggies or a lean piece of meat instead of the stuffing or potatoes.
- Have a small serving of dessert (everyone needs dessert!) and some fruit.
- Don’t overdo it on the alcohol. A glass of wine or two is okay, but beyond that, the calories really add up and lowers your inhibitions so you may be less likely to make good food choices.
- Each holiday is ONE day. Don’t make “the holidays” an excuse to be constantly eating unhealthy. If you make healthy eating an everyday thing, you won’t feel so badly about being off track for a day or two.
Guest Post by Lauren Fishman