We all love the holidays. They are a time to relax with friends and family and what better way to bring people together than around a table of food? While none of us aspire to put on holiday weight, it can be difficult to resist the butter, sugar and salt laden goodies and tempting cocktails that this season brings. Fortunately, holiday weight doesn’t have to be an unavoidable yearly occurrence.
Typical holiday food includes many hefty indulgences such as gravy, stuffing, meats, and creams, but some of these staples can be easily cleaned up. Let’s consider the classic sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. While sweet potatoes have the very best intentions, dressed up in sugar, butter and egg followed by a blanket of marshmallows, they barely resemble their former healthy selves. You can easily re-work this beta- carotene rich gem by simply slicing and baking it. For those who miss the sweet element in this dish try adding a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of walnuts.
Moving on to the stuffing, try swapping the signature cubed baguette for a more nutritious whole grain. Wild rice, faro, or quinoa would all hold up well. Rather than the sausage try adding bits of marinated tempeh and tofu. You can bulk up your stuffing with the same vegetables you would use in your traditional dish such as carrots and celery and by all means include the classic roasted chestnuts.
Think of a big, substantial salad as your life- line on a day devoted entirely to eating.
Not only are salads delicious, they contain a ton of fiber which will leave you feeling satisfied and less likely to go back for seconds when dessert rolls around. Salads are a wonderful option because they are an opportunity to get very creative. You can add whatever you like to a salad and with the right dressing you have a delicious and nutritious way to fill up a large portion of your plate. Start with a leafy green and add in some seasonal produce like roasted squash rounds. Add a bean or grain, nuts or seeds and some fresh or dried fruit. Finish with an olive or flax oil- based vinaigrette and all diners will be eating less fat and more nutrients.
Loading your plate with the vegetable, grain and bean based sides and salad is the ticket to keeping consumption in check, but for some of us the holidays just aren’t the same without the signature turkey and ham. It is important to treat ourselves as long as we exercise moderation. Serving yourself is helpful, as others may give you a portion that is too large. Rich sauces like gravy should be kept on the side, allowing you to dip your food. Before going back for seconds give yourself some time to digest. Feelings of satiety often take around 15 minutes to come into effect so disengage from your plate and give your body some time to catch up. Finally, chew your food thoroughly and remain in touch with your actions as you are eating. Mindful eating can help avoid overindulgence.
Other problems can be encountered in regards to appetizers and desserts as well. But, of course, there are many delicious and healthy options available there as well. Olives, raw vegetables and hummus, salsa and whole grain crackers are a great way to begin the festivities. For something a bit more spirited try popcorn drizzled with a bit of olive oil and finished with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg and rosemary.
For dessert fresh fruit is always the ideal but if you’re craving the classic pumpkin pie it can be slightly altered to become a healthy dish. While you may be surrounded by cheese cakes and cobblers, you can remain disciplined knowing you have something equally as tasty available.
It is important to enjoy the things that you love during this time of year but keep in mind there are ways to enjoy while ensuring you’re not racing for the gym come New Years day!