Enjoy healthy holiday foods to eat well without guilt

The holiday season is one of the best times of the year to spend with family — and for eating. Your mom or grandpa is making all your favorites, or maybe you’re the one cooking everyone’s favorite dishes. However, this time of year can be stressful if you’ve been working to lose weight or change up your eating habits.

Don’t worry: You can enjoy delicious food without feeling deprived. Simply incorporate some healthy holiday foods and a few changes into your approach to meals.

Make healthy menu substitutions

Family meals can be delicious and healthyCreating a healthier meal doesn’t have to be complicated or lacking in taste. Building your menu is about more than just lowering overall calories; you also want to consider fat, salt and sugar. Start by cutting out unnecessary calories and making substitutions in comfort foods.

  • Skip dressings and gravy. This is an easy way to immediately cut calories. Ditch the high-fat salad dressings and add mandarin orange slices or grapes to your salad. If you need a little something on top, use an infused olive oil with balsamic vinegar.
  • Mix vegetables into common foods. Mashed potatoes are a part of many family meals. Make them healthier by adding in mashed cauliflower. Use one part cauliflower to three parts mashed potatoes to keep it subtle, or go for half and half if you’re more adventurous. Opt for a fruit-and-vegetable stuffing that uses whole grains, such as this option from SparkRecipes. You can add pureed carrots to mac and cheese for those picky eaters who always avoid their veggies.
  • Keep the fruits and vegetables simple. Saute green beans or roast sweet potatoes and top with cinnamon instead of making heavy casseroles. Try using cranberries in new ways, like with this kale, cranberry and sweet potato recipe from Real Simple.
  • Pass the plain yogurt. This alternative is a great lower-fat and lower-calorie substitute for sour cream or mayo in recipes and on potatoes.
  • Lighten up the drinks. Serve plenty of water or sparkling water with fruit during the meal. Choose a creative lower-calorie cocktail for the adults: Shape.com has 20 recipes to choose from.
  • Rethink dessert. Although it’s one of the best parts of any meal, dessert packs a lot of calories. For a healthier treat, try a making a dessert that incorporates what one Harvard nutritionist calls the three pleasures: dark chocolate, nuts and fruit. This can give you a rich taste without regret.

Change your approach

How you fill your plate (and what plate you use) can make a big difference in how much you eat. Choose a smaller plate to adjust your portion sizes and keep from overeating. Fill half the plate with vegetables first and then go for the turkey, stuffing and rolls.

If you’re eating away from home and are worried about not having many healthy holiday foods, offer to bring a side item or two that you want to eat. Also, set a goal for how much you want to eat. Deciding your limits in advance will help you stick to your goals rather than losing sight of them once all the food is laid out in front of you.

Just because you’re trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods. Take small servings of your high-calorie faves like Dad’s mac and cheese or Granny’s pumpkin pie. Get creative this holiday season to stick to a healthy diet while enjoying meal time with family. You might inspire others to rethink their eating habits as well.

Related links: Reid Health Weight Management Resources

Image source: Flickr

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