’Tis the season for celebrating! But it doesn’t have to be the season of overindulgence and weight gain. The average American gains 1-2 pounds each year during the time from Halloween to New Year’s. While this may not seem like much, research shows that relatively few people ever subsequently lose that weight. And with additional weight comes increased risk for developing obesity, with all of its adverse health effects.
Whether you’re following an eating plan to maintain your cardiovascular health or focusing on improved blood glucose levels through consistent intake of healthy carbohydrates, you should enjoy the holiday season without added feelings of fear and defeat. With a little planning and preparation, you can continue your healthy eating habits and enjoy the holiday festivities guilt-free.
Set Realistic Expectations
• “Maintain—don’t gain.” Instead of striving for weight loss during the holiday season, seek to avoid weight gain.
• Stick to your routine as much as possible. Plan ahead for your workouts when traveling (this is good advice throughout the year, not just for holiday travel). Some gyms will allow you to transfer your membership for the duration of your trip.
• Always keep your weight and health goals in mind.
Set Yourself Up for Success
• Avoid skipping meals, and enjoy a healthy snack before attending a holiday party. Showing up hungry often leads to overeating.
• Focus on the company and fellowship, NOT the food.
• Consider being the host or hostess, so YOU can choose the menu—or bring your own healthy dish to social gatherings.
• Eat slowly and mindfully. You may be surprised at how satisfied you are after just a few bites.
• Don’t linger near the buffet; socialize in a less tempting location.
• Survey all the choices before filling your plate. With so many tempting treats, select only your favorites. Don’t waste calories on foods you could do without.
• Keep a food journal. Research has shown we are a lot less likely to indulge if we hold ourselves accountable by documenting our food intake.
Minimize the Damage
• Allow yourself only small portions of your favorite holiday foods. This way you can still enjoy the flavor without overindulging.
• Choose lighter options such as raw vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meats, low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crackers.
• Avoid fried foods, heavy dips and creamy sauces. Instead, choose dips made with yogurt, fat-free whipped cream or cottage cheese.
• Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed.
• Don’t drink your calories! Beware of the high calorie and carbohydrate content of alcoholic drinks and other holiday beverages.
Remember: You’re in control, even during the holidays. If you do happen to overindulge at a family meal or holiday party, don’t let that become an excuse to continue the trend. Remind yourself of your health and weight goals and resolve to stick to them—not only during the holidays, but year-round.
Healthy Recipe Substitutions
Instead of This: Use This:
Sugar Stevia, Splenda
Oil Applesauce or fruit puree
Sour cream Fat-free plain Greek yogurt
Cream Fat-free half-and-half, evaporated skim milk
Oil-based marinades Balsamic vinegar, low-sodium broth, wine
White flour Whole-wheat flour (use half the amount)
Creamed soups Fat-free soup, potato flakes, tofu (for thickening)
Salt Herbs, spices, salt-free seasonings
Healthy Eating Choices
Instead of This: Eat This:
Candied yams Roasted sweet potatoes
Dark-meat turkey White-meat turkey
Prepackaged stuffing Homemade stuffing
Mashed potatoes Mashed sweet potatoes (with cinnamon)
Pecan pie Crustless pumpkin pie
Caramelized Onion and Apple Stuffing
(Adapted from Living Well Magazine)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups halved and thinly sliced yellow onions (2-3 large)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
8 cups cubed rustic multigrain bread (½-inch; about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 medium red apples, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1- 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1. To prepare onions: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions, 2 teaspoons thyme and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 20-25 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if necessary, until the onions are deep golden brown, 20-25 minutes more. Add vinegar, increase heat to high and cook, scraping up the browned bits, until the vinegar evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. To prepare stuffing: Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.
3. Toss bread with oil and pepper on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring once, until crispy, about 15 minutes. Add to the bowl with the onions.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 400°F.
5. Heat butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery and diced onion; cook, stirring, until the onion starts to brown, 6-8 minutes. Add apples, sage, thyme and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples start to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the onions and bread. Add broth and gently stir until well combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover with foil.
6. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crispy, about 15 minutes more.
Sheet Pan-Roasted Vegetables
(Adapted from Cooking Light)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound peeled cubed butternut squash (about 3 cups)
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2-1/4 cups)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
8 ounces small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Combine oil, mustard, thyme, 2 teaspoons vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine butternut squash, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and potatoes in a large bowl. Add mustard mixture to squash mixture; toss to coat.
3. Spread vegetable mixture in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450°F for 35 minutes or until browned and tender, stirring gently with a spatula after 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Drizzle with remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar; toss.
Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie
30 small gingersnap cookies,
(about 7.5 ounces)
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 pints (4 cups) frozen low-fat vanilla ice cream, softened
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with cooking spray.
2. To prepare crust: Combine gingersnaps and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until blended. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.
3. Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. To prepare filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Add ice cream and stir until blended. Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Let the pie soften slightly in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes befo