The holidays bring fun, spending time with friends and family. They also bring a lot of food. With some classic holiday dishes traditionally being full of calories, fats, and sugars, it can be a hard time of the year to stick to healthy habits. But with a few tips and healthy recipes, you can keep the holidays healthy without missing out on all of the traditional festivities.
If you’re hosting a party, you have control over a lot of the food. Shop smartly to ensure that you’re choosing the right ingredients. Grocery shopping during off hours allows you to take your time to read the labels of the foods you choose to make sure they’re healthy. Try to stay on the outside perimeter of the store—this is where the whole, nutritious foods are typically located.
Whether you’re making appetizers or a full meal, make sure to incorporate a lot of fruits and vegetables. Instead of hiding vegetables under heavy sauces or glazes, cook them in a healthier way to let their natural flavors shine. Tossing vegetables in olive oil, garlic, and salt and roasting them in the oven makes for a delicious and healthy side dish.
Adapt your current recipes to reduce fat and calories without losing out on their classic taste. You can replace one egg with two egg whites to reduce cholesterol, substitute applesauce for oil or butter in baked items, use fat-free versions of yogurt, sour cream, or whipped cream, and use reduced-fat cheeses in casseroles and salads.
If you’re looking to swap out classic recipes with healthier alternatives, try some of these recipes.
- Instant pot mashed sweet potatoes. Swap out traditional mashed potatoes for this delicious gluten and dairy free side. It’s healthy and easy—only taking 30 minutes from start to finish.
- Winter kale and brussel sprout salad. Packed with sweet fruit, roasted vegetables, and crunchy nuts, this salad is a great, healthy starter to fill up on before your main meal.
- Gluten-free tempeh stuffing. This stuffing uses tempeh instead of bread for a healthier version of this holiday classic. As a bonus, it only requires one pot to make.
- Cauliflower stuffing. If you’re not a fan of tempeh, you can swap the bread in your stuffing for cauliflower. This makes a tasty, low-carb side with all the bold flavors of traditional stuffing.
- Cranberry chicken. Cranberries are so festive, but they usually only hit the dinner table in a thick, jelly-like substance. In this recipe, fresh cranberries are cooked down with honey, shallots, and spices to form a sweet and savory glaze.
- Balsamic olive oil braised green beans. Instead of getting your green bean fix in a calorie-packed green bean casserole, try this quick and easy side dish. Fresh green beans are seasoned with thyme and braised with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, onion, black olives, and topped with toasted pine nuts. They’re low-carb and vegan friendly!
- Paleo shepherd’s pie. This classic favorite is hearty and filled with sources of good quality carbs and protein. It’s gluten and dairy free, and swaps white potatoes for healthier sweet potatoes.
- Eggplant and zucchini gratin. Using low-fat cheeses and eggplant and zucchini in place of potatoes makes this side dish the perfect way to eat your vegetables at less than 100 calories per serving.
If you’re a guest at a holiday party, you can still make healthy choices even though you’re not providing the food. Make sure you’re eating regularly throughout the day, and not ‘saving room’ to eat a lot at the party. Eating regular meals will keep you from overeating at the event. If you’re worried about resisting unhealthy foods, eat a healthy meal or snack before you go. This will take the edge off of your appetite.
Use a small plate so you won’t have as much room to fill with unhealthy foods. Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, salads, and lean meats. Eat that first and wait 10 minutes. Waiting will help your brain determine if your stomach is full. Don’t eat excessively just because you feel overly hungry in the moment. If you find unhealthy foods hard to resist, find an activity to remove yourself from food. Take a walk with family and friends or play a game.
Regardless of how many unhealthy foods and drinks we’re faced with during the holiday season, there is still room to make healthy decisions. With the right recipes and state of mind, you can get through the holidays without disrupting your healthy lifestyle.