Healthy Holiday Meal Tips
Holidays can be hard on the waistline, so altering holiday meal recipes to reduce their calorie and fat content is a good idea. While it is said that people on average only gain one or two extra pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, that excess weight tends to stay throughout the next year. Even those who’ve gone through bariatric surgery may have trouble with overeating and consuming too many calories. It isn’t easy to resist the tempting treats offered during the holidays. However, there are low-fat, low- calorie recipe alternatives to those familiar dishes that won’t add unwanted weight during this time of year.
Low Calorie Appetizer Alternatives
Many holiday appetizers include the use of bread, dips, and cheeses. While items such as those are undoubtedly delicious, they also provide fat, calories, and carbohydrates that compromise efforts to maintain a healthy weight. There are ways to curb appetite while waiting for the big holiday dinner. For example, holiday dips typically involve the use of pieces of bread, cheese, and other dairy products that are loaded with fat and offer little nutritional value. Instead, try the low-calorie alternative of using yogurt-based dips with vegetables as opposed to bread. Crudités are trays of raw vegetables provided with a light dipping sauce. Adding Crudité to a holiday meal will increase nutritional value and provide a colorful highlight to any holiday table setting.
Keep the Salads Healthy
Salads, in general, are considered a healthy way to go. The one ingredient that can impact the nutritional value is the dressing. Oil is often a key ingredient in salad dressings, and one tablespoon contains about 120 calories. For those that are looking to keep calorie consumption to a minimum, it would be prudent for them to be mindful of the calorie content when considering a salad dressing recipe.
Healthiest Holiday Meal Options
- White Meat. Turkey is often a holiday staple as far as entrée items go. Turkey itself is not particularly unhealthy, but most of the fat is in the dark meat. A healthier option would be to simply serve a roasted turkey breast and removing the temptation of dark meat. Other options include lean beef or pork tenderloins. There are vegetarian roasts, such as tofurkey, that are healthy alternatives as well.
- Sides. Cauliflower is an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes. It is high in fiber and B vitamins. While potatoes aren’t necessarily horrible, they do contain a large amount of filling carbohydrates and calories. Moreover, there are fewer health benefits without the skins. Try serving mashed cauliflower as an alternative to potatoes. The difference is surprisingly minimal.
- Casseroles. Holiday feasts wouldn’t be the same without a tasty casserole or two. The problem is that they, too, are packed with fat and calories. The trick to keeping casseroles light is to substitute certain ingredients. For example, cream-based canned soups are common in classic casserole recipes. Cream-based soups add empty calories to a side dish that would still be delicious without them. Try using lighter dairy such as yogurt or ricotta cheese to bring the ingredients together for a casserole.
- Sweet potatoes. Instead of regular potatoes or candied yams, incorporate sweet potatoes into the holiday feast. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and promote gut health. They are also lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes. Cutting up sweet potatoes and roasting them in the oven is a much healthier alternative to the other starches.
- Cranberry sauce. There are generous health benefits that come with cranberries. They have antioxidants that are said to lower blood pressure and help prevent urinary tract infections. The problem is that some people feel that cranberries are too tart, so a lot of sugar is added. Some families also prefer to use canned cranberry sauce, which has high sugar content. As an alternative, try making homemade cranberry sauce without adding as much sugar.
Healthy Dessert Options
Dessert is quite possibly the most challenging course for which to have a healthy alternative, however, it is still possible. By not overindulging on sweets, it is still possible to enjoy what’s on the table. Some get-togethers offer more than one dessert to choose from, so reduce typical portion sizes so that trying multiple options won’t take its toll on the waistline. For removing the temptation of overeating dessert altogether, there are healthier alternatives to traditional cakes, cookies, and pies. For example, a healthy parfait filled with fresh fruits, yogurt, honey, and granola is rich in healthy nutrients and has virtually no empty calories. Mascarpone is also a lighter cheese that can be used with fruit to make desserts. Mixing in cottage cheese can also minimize the amount of cream cheese in a cheesecake.
The holidays are the perfect time to have all of the classic dishes for the big family feast. By making slight adjustments to the recipes and choosing healthier alternatives, these dishes won’t cause unwanted weight gain.
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