The holidays are all about food and family. Nothing beats having a great meal while being surrounded by your favorite people. Unfortunately, the comforts of special occasions often lead to expanded waistlines for all. While some weight gain is expected during the holidays, you don't always want to feel like a hot air balloon full of cement after a home-cooked meal. Good eats don't have to be heavy, high-calorie eats. We bet that you can still enjoy traditional holiday flavors with these healthy and delicious alternatives.
1) Yoghurt-based Vegetable and Fruit Dips Are Better
A healthy snack or side dish is easily prepared using salad greens or a variety of raw vegetables and fruits. But some healthy intentions are quickly undone with creamy toppings, dips or sugary concoctions.
A creamy store-bought dressing is a favorite for carrots, broccoli or celery – otherwise harmless foods, and can speed up your weight gain faster than you might realise. A large portion of a ranch dressing is made using full-fat sour cream high in calories and saturated fats. Some ranch dressings contain buttermilk and mayonnaise as well, both of which aren’t easy on the waistline. The combination of sour cream, mayo, and buttermilk is a triple threat to your heart and gut. Just a few tablespoons of these creamy dressings can easily add up to a calorie equivalent of a slice of pie.
We recommend that you substitute the high-fat ingredients above with Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has approximately a quarter of the calories of full-fat sour cream and provides abundant amounts of protein for revving up the metabolism, building muscle, and burning body fat at faster rates. If you prefer the traditional taste of sour cream, go for a low-fat or nonfat variety. These will reduce your calorie intake by at least half.
2) Baked Sweet Potatoes Over Candied Yams
Keeping weight off isn’t about total restriction, it’s about making better choices. Eating only celery sticks on a special occasion is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Holiday foods don’t just provide physical satisfaction, they’re a source of emotional comfort, too.
If one of your holiday favorites are sweet yams topped with sugary marshmallows, don’t despair. Sweet potatoes are a perfect healthy alternative. This root naturally contains an abundance of sugar, which is particularly noticeable when a sweet potato is slow roasted. When moderate amounts of natural sugar are eaten in combination with fruit or vegetable fibers, your body is able to process it better. While any regular over-abundance of sucrose in the liver will ultimately lead to an expanding waistline, consuming small portions of natural sugars from foods high in fiber is a clear winner over canned foods drenched in syrup.
Try slicing sweet potatoes into thick slabs and baking them in the oven. Add a pinch of sea salt and drizzle with olive oil for a tasty side dish that'll make your taste buds and body happy.
3) Fresh Green Beans Instead of Casserole
Casseroles are a holiday favorite: easy to make, creamy and delicious. Unfortunately, even when your base ingredient is a vegetable, the combination of butter, cream, salt and fried toppings may have the night ending in heart palpitations.
This holiday get-together, serve fresh whole green beans instead. Sprinkle on some garlic salt, slivered almonds, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil for a tasty and healthy side dish that you won't regret coming back for more.
For those adamant about having green bean casserole, substitute a low-fat cream of mushroom soup. For every half-cup portion eaten, you'll intake about 40 fewer calories. That might not sound like much, but it sure adds up quick when you go back for seconds, thirds or fourths.
4) Replace Eggnog With Cider Drinks
Eggnog is delicious. It primarily consists of egg yolks, whole milk, heavy cream and sugar. Sounds like a recipe for weight gain and soaring cholesterol levels to us. Instead, try a spiced apple cider with cinnamon and nutmeg. Add a small squirt of caramel sauce for some extra "Mmm." We know you'll love this simple drink, and your family and friends will love you for it too. To add an adult twist, simply stir one shot of whipped cream- or apple-flavored vodka. (I like this but we try not to make too much of an emphasis on people’s weights, rather to live a healthy lifestyle)
5) Eat White Meat, Avoid Dark Meat and Skin
If you really want to save calories wherever possible, leave the skin on the side of the plate. Per gram, fat contains five more calories than carbohydrates or protein. While calories aren’t all created equal, we think it’s important to pick your battles with fat wisely. Just an ounce and a half of turkey skin can add an additional 250 calories to your plate.
White meat also has lower fat content than dark meat. For health-conscious individuals, we recommend choosing breast meat over leg or thigh.
The best part of any holiday is the food. Now you know how to dine without all the guilt and heartburn. The appetizing suggestions above should ensure that you and your family remain cheerful this upcoming holiday season, because there's nothing worse than depriving yourself of traditions just to save a few calories. If you think about it, there's always a smarter and healthier way to prepare a meal. You just have to be open to trying something new!