Main Article: Holiday Cooking
Written by Kelli Baker | Reviewed by Nikita Kapur MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
Healthy eating during the holidays can sometimes be a challenge with the many parties and festivities happening all in a short period of time. The majority of foods at these events can be loaded with saturated fat, salt, sugar and excess calories. However, this doesn’t have to be the case when hosting your own holiday event and you don’t have to sacrifice flavor in the name of health. Here are some swaps you can make in your traditional holiday cooking agenda to keep the merriment of the occasion without sacrificing your waistline and healthy eating habits.
- Dips and chips are common appetizers served at parties throughout the holidays. Most of the dips are made with sour cream and/or cheeses that are high in saturated fat and calories. A better alternative would be to swap out the high fat ingredients with nonfat yogurt or preparing a salsa or hummus instead to be used as a dip. Additionally, instead of serving chips allow your guests to munch on some raw vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower and cucumbers to be used with that healthier dip option.
- Another popular munching appetizer during the holidays is mixed nuts. Often times these mixed nuts are loaded with sodium. A great option is replacing them with their raw, unsalted counterparts like raw almonds, cashews and/or walnuts. Additionally, substituting the nuts for air popped popcorn can be a fun option to decrease the calories and sodium intake.
- Vegetable casseroles can be problematic during the holidays because they are often prepared with full fat cream of mushroom soup. A great alternative to this classic holiday dish would be to roast your vegetables instead. Rather than smothering them in butter, sprinkle a little olive oil, over some asparagus, green beans and/or brussel sprouts and roast them in the oven. You can also use chopped fresh herbs or lemon zest to add some additional flavor.
- Many people make a turkey for their holiday dinner. This can actually be a really great protein to serve with holiday meals. However, when making the gravy for the turkey, drain the fat and juices from the turkey and let it sit for several minutes allowing the fat to separate and solidify on the top. When you are ready to make your gravy, scrape off the fat from the top of the liquid before thickening the gravy. This will reduce the amount of saturated fat in your dish without eliminating the flavor.
- Potatoes are in many popular dishes during the holidays whether you like them mashed or roasted. When preparing mashed potatoes, you can substitute ½ the potatoes with cauliflower(you can even substitute all of the potatoes and simply make a cauliflower mash) lessening the carbohydrate load and calories of your meal while increasing your vegetable intake simultaneously. On the other hand, if you choose to roast your potatoes you can incorporate roasted parsnips alongside the potatoes with a similar intention as the cauliflower mash.
- A high sugar side dish during the holidays is candied yams. The healthier swap for this dish would be to roast some sweet potatoes in the oven. Often times sprinkling some cinnamon on top can bring out the natural sweetness and add a wonderful winter flavor to the dish.
- Alcohol is commonly enjoyed during festive times such as the holidays. While having a little wine can have some heart healthy benefits, too much can be detrimental. One great way to enjoy your wine while also decreasing the caloric load is to make a wine spritzer. Simply substitute ½ your wine with club soda or sparkling water and you have a refreshing alcoholic beverage.
- Sugar cookies are a popular baked good enjoyed during the holiday season. To help decrease the calories it can be helpful to use egg whites instead of the whole egg, use a little less butter and lastly substitute whole wheat flour for all purpose flour in an effort to increase the fiber content of these festive cookies.
Deprivation during the holidays is never the answer. The holidays are a time for joy, celebration and family and there is no reason why your food can’t be a part of this wonderful time of year. These simple swaps can help to decrease the guilt and gluttonous feelings mistakenly synonymous with the holidays. By making healthier choices those New Years resolutions can be saved for other life goals and aspirations.