One of the MANY reasons people look forward to the holiday season is the FOOD!! Everyone has their favorite go-to treats that hold special meaning for them during this festive time of year. While Christmas may have us tempted to pull up a few plates to the holiday buffet, most of us are trying to eat healthier foods, and dare I say, lose a few pounds. It is very possible to eat healthy during the holidays, but where do you even start? There are some great healthy holiday recipes out there with many healthy alternatives to some unhealthy ingredients. Let’s take a look at some healthy options for holiday cuisine.
Healthy Holiday Appetizers
Nothing says “holiday party” like appetizers and drinks. I can’t think of a single Yuletide gathering where there weren’t tantalizing appetizers and festive holiday drinks to dive into. How can you enjoy these party options without blowing your calorie limit for the day? The best way to re-train our brains to choose healthily is to have healthier alternatives to what we know we shouldn’t be having.
- Drinks – Nothing says Christmastime like a big punch bowl of fruity goodness or eggnog delight. Problem – most of these delicious mixes have WAY TOO MUCH sugar and empty calories. Trade-in these sugary drinks for water, sparkling water, or diet soda. Save your calories for the food!
- Appetizers – You can’t avoid the trays full of yummy appetizers at every holiday party. Look for fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and low-calorie trays of food, ones that will be good for you but not blow your calorie budget in one plate.
- Bread – What’s the most common “before dinner” item? Bread! What’s the first thing most diets tell you to steer clear? Bread! Avoid it if you can. If you are a bread addict, it’s okay to indulge in one piece and then back away.
- Salad – You know you can’t go wrong with a salad for an appetizer. Just be cautious of the dressing; that’s where the empty calories can sometimes hide. Opt for a vinaigrette/olive oil-based dressing rather than one based on mayonnaise and cream.
- Dips – Dips are always a crowd favorite. No matter what you eat your dip with, you know it’s going to be enjoyable. Chips, veggies, crackers, bread, fruit, you name it, there are several dips to go with it. Be mindful of what ingredients are in the dip; that’s where the calories hide.
Healthy Holiday Main And Side Dishes
Many like to recreate their Thanksgiving meal on Christmas Day, having a repeat of turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato casserole. Others go a different route by serving Italian cuisine, Mexican fare, or breakfast/brunch classics. Whichever culinary path you take for Christmas Day, opt for healthy choices.
- Turkey – Turkey is low-fat white meat, high in protein, and low in saturated fat. Brine and baste your turkey in healthy spices and cut away the fat parts of the bird, and you have healthy holiday meat.
- Side dishes – Side dishes are one of the areas where we sometimes pile on the calories. Though the side dish may have a vegetable in it, there could also be fats like butter, milk, cream, cheese, and other fats that you may not be aware of. Sweet potatoes are very good for you, but soaking them in butter, brown sugar, marshmallows, and unhealthy fats can hurt your healthy eating quest. Opt for side dishes where the vegetables are roasted and lightly tossed in olive oil. Roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, roasted Brussel sprouts, and green beans are good for you and very tasty. Mashed potatoes are always a crowd favorite, but they can hurt your weight loss efforts with all the added butter, milk, and cream. Try mashed cauliflower instead; it has a similar texture and taste to mashed potatoes but with a lot less fat and calories.
- Meal choice – We don’t always get to choose what holiday meal we are served, but when we do have decision-making power, always go in a healthy direction. Your family and friends will appreciate the offering of a healthy meal and won’t go home feeling guilty about what they had to eat.
Healthy Holiday Desserts
It doesn’t sound right to put the word “healthy” and the word “holiday dessert” in the same sentence, but it can be done. You can have and serve healthy holiday desserts, and it will take some research and substituting ingredients on your part, but there are many delicious dessert options out there that won’t bust your progress in eating healthy.
- Sugar and sweeteners – Nothing says holiday desserts more than the addition of lots of sugar, brown sugar, and chocolate. You don’t have to avoid these desserts; just use healthier ingredients. Substitute maple syrup, honey, stevia, or monk fruit for sugar
- Eggs, oil, milk, heavy cream – Most cake recipes call for one or more of these ingredients, but you can substitute healthier choices for these by using greek yogurt, applesauce, dairy-free; just milk alternatives, or coconut oil, to name a few.
- Almond flour is a great baking alternative and good for you.
The internet is full of low-fat dessert options that substitute healthy ingredients for things you know aren’t good food choices. You don’t have to give up holiday treats; just learn how to make healthy options a priority. Can’t find any healthy dessert options? Learn to make some yourself! Nothing is more rewarding than making a yummy dessert that tastes good and is also good for you!
Happy Holiday Eating!
Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, don’t give up your healthy eating journey. There are so many excellent food choices that will taste good and fuel your body with nutrients and strength. Eat well, rest well, surround yourself with those you love, and let this holiday season be your happiest one yet!
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