The holidays are filled with family gatherings and holiday parties that can lead to overeating foods packed with cholesterol, fat and sugar. For people who are watching their cholesterol, blood sugar or weight, this can be a difficult time. The Mayo Clinic states the average person can pack on up to 5 pounds over the holiday season, which means more strain on your body and heart. Whether you are watching your diet or you are cooking for someone who is, here are a few simple tips for eating healthy this holiday season.
Tips for Making Holiday Dishes
If you are in charge of the holiday meals or bringing a dish to the office potluck or party, then you can control what goes into the foods you serve. Most traditional holiday dishes are packed with carbohydrates, butter and sugar, but you can change that by making a few substitutions. The Mayo Clinic suggests trying a few of these tricks to lower the fat and sugar content in holiday dishes and desserts.
- Cut back on sodium – You can cut the salt in any recipe in half and not even notice a change in flavor. If you want to add more flavor to your stuffing, mashed potatoes or other side-dishes, try using fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, oregano and parsley instead.
- Use margarine instead of butter – Try using a low-sodium, low-fat margarine when cooking side-dishes or baking desserts and cookies instead of real butter. This will cut down on fat, sodium and calories.
- Serve lean meats – Turkey, chicken and fish are good choices because they are high in protein and low in fat. Avoid serving ham or other processed meats because they are high in sodium.
- Cut down on fat – Whether you are cooking or baking you can substitute healthier foods for high sugar and fat foods. Try using unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas in place of sugar when baking. Use skim milk in recipes that call for milk, low-fat margarine instead of butter, and sweeten with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon instead of topping with sugar.
Tips for Attending Holiday Parties
While attending holiday parties and dinners you may not have control over the menu but you can control what you choose to eat. Here are some ways to enjoy holiday gatherings without overindulging in high fat, high sugar foods.
- Avoid high-fat, high calorie appetizers – Walk away from the cheese and meat spreads on crackers, the fried foods and breaded appetizers and head over to the tray of raw vegetable and fruit instead. Be sure to go easy on the dips, though, because these are usually high in fat and calories.
- Limit alcohol consumption – Often, people forget to include the calories and sugar from the drinks they consume, so be aware of how many glasses of wine or alcoholic beverages you drink. Have sparkling water or a diet soda before dinner and enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner, then go back to water or another beverage. Instead of drinking calories, save the calories for the foods you want to eat.
- Choose dinner foods wisely – Choose the lean meats, cooked vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grain breads. If you must have gravy, spoon only a small amount on your food. Be aware of portion sizes and only allow yourself a small spoonful of each item so you don’t overeat.
- Choose one dessert and stop – There are usually an array of desserts served at holiday meals and parties but you don’t have to eat one of everything. Choose one dessert that you love and walk away. Your waistline will thank you.
It’s hard to eat healthy over the holidays when there are so many tempting foods to choose from but you can do it if you are persistent. By making a few substitutions in the foods you make and by choosing carefully at dinners and parties you attend, you can stay healthy and not gain weight over the holiday season.