THE HOLIDAY SEASON provides challenges for everyone – even the healthiest eaters. The National Institute of Health reports that each year 51 percent of Americans gain weight between October 31 and January 1. By using some tried and true healthy eating strategies, we can all avoid becoming part of that unhealthy trend. Consider these tips to turn holiday eating challenges into opportunities to make healthy food choices and enjoy every moment of the holiday season!
Snack healthy before you go. Whether you're headed for the grocery store, the shopping mall or a holiday gathering, eat a healthy snack before you go. Taking the edge off hunger will help eliminate the desire to buy high fat, high calorie convenience foods, stop for a latte and a cookie, or hit the party foods table as soon as you arrive. When you control your hunger, you can more easily make better and healthier food choices wherever you are.
Celebrate with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Fall and winter produce offer abundant options and colorful choices. Fill your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables that are packed with nutrients. Try seasonal citrus like oranges or grapefruit to accent salads or eat as a snack. Apples are especially plentiful this time of year. Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, and fun-to-eat spaghetti squash, can perk up an evening menu, and nutrient loaded sweet potatoes naturally satisfy the desire for something sweet when prepared without the maple sugar or marshmallows. Plus, these fresh seasonal items are often be less expensive than produce that is out of season.
Lighten up your recipes. During the holidays, many of us love to return to our traditional foods and family favorite recipes. Take a moment to look over ingredients and decide if there are opportunities to cut fat and calories – by making simple substitutions. For example, most recipes that call for sour cream will also be successful if you substitute fat-free plain Greek yogurt. This small change can cut the fat and calories in the dish – and add protein.
Watch the Extras. Be aware of how many liquid calories you consume. Many people consume as many calories in what they drink as what they eat. Alcohol, punch, and hot chocolate can easily pack on the calories to what would otherwise be a healthy meal. Sugar and sweets are another area that can get out of hand during the holiday season. One strategy you can use is to eat only what you really love. If cookies are your thing, then leave the pies, cakes, and candy alone. Use portion control while you savor your favorite holiday treat. Remember, moderation is the key in everything.
Keep a holiday calendar.
The holidays are a time to celebrate with friends and family but not every day needs to be a celebration. Try to limit holiday indulgences to one day per week. By putting the events on a calendar it's easy to identify which dates are likely to include more calories and adjust accordingly. Another strategy to help offset the extra calories from holiday treats is to increase your activity on the days you plan to celebrate. Remember, an extra 200 calories per day can lead to a 20-pound weight gain in a year.
So this year during the holidays, celebrate smart. Make a plan and stick with it by trying some new healthy holiday treats, and avoiding the pitfalls of overindulgence.
Here's wishing you and the people you love a very happy and healthy Holiday Season!
Kim Floyd, M.Ed., R.D., L.D., is a Registered Dietician and a member of the Core Team for the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program with Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, Inc.
These recipes were prepared by the Canyon Ranch Culinary Team and are used with permission.
Carrot & Ginger Soup
For a warm, tasty starter to a meal, Carrot & Ginger Soup is a great choice. It’s easy to make and has a rich, warm color that’s palate pleasing.
Nutrition information (per serving):
Sodium 318 mg
Protein 1 g
Carbohydrates 13 g
Fiber 1 g
3 tablespoons diced onions
½ teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots (about 6 ounces)
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock or broth
¼ cup peeled and diced sweet potato
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil over low heat until onions are translucent. Add syrup, honey and ginger. Cook until onions begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until carrots and potato are soft.
Cool slightly and transfer mixture to a blender container. Puree until smooth.
If desired, pour soup into a saucepan and warm over medium heat before serving.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Nutrition information (per serving):
Sodium 250 mg
Protein 2 g
Carbohydrates 25 g
Fiber 4 g
2 medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons frozen concentrated orange juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place 6 cups water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Turn off heat and drain water. Place saucepan back on burner for 30 more seconds to dry potatoes.
Add remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher until all ingredients are mixed well. Potatoes will be slightly lumpy.