As Thanksgiving comes to an end, the busy holiday season begins. Holiday celebrations, work parties and friend gatherings. For at least a month your calendar becomes booked. You are asked to bring a dish or join for some appetizers, dinner, desserts and drinks. How do I maintain my healthy lifestyle during this month that is centered around food? Several small decisions can create a large impact to sustain your weight and/or health.
Countless recipes call for large volumes of butter, sugar, cream, and other ingredients that can increase the calorie, fat and sodium of dishes. If you are the host preparing food items or a guest bringing an item, you have the opportunity to modify the dishes to enhance the nutrition and minimize the calories, fat, added sugar and sodium. For example for baked goods, swap out the butter/oil for pumpkin puree, mashed bananas or unsweetened applesauce. If you usually use sour cream for dips or baking, try Greek yogurt. To lower fat, switch your regular dairy products (milk, cream, cheese etc.) to low-fat or fat-free versions. For mashed potatoes, keep the skin on for added fiber. If you have yams or other roasted starchy vegetable dishes, incorporate your favorite non-starchy vegetables into the roasted dish such as Brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Instead of adding chocolate chips or candy to your dish, substitute for dried fruit such as dates, apricots or cranberries.
If you are a guest and bringing a dish volunteer a healthy alternative such as a fruit salad, vegetable platter or a variety of nuts/dried fruit.
As a guest or host, it is important to stay mindful and listen to your body’s hunger and satiety cues. As a host, just take a small sample bite to taste-test instead of continuously snacking while preparing the dishes to avoid empty calories/mindless eating. Eat normal small meals/snacks during the day, avoid skipping meals prior to the get together to avoid overeating. Use smaller plates to avoid oversized portions. Fill most of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Don’t just put something on your plate because it is a traditional holiday food item, if you do not really like the item, don’t eat it!
Be cautious of added calories from beverages such as eggnog or alcoholic mixes. An 8oz glass of eggnog can be more than 200 calories. Limit portion sizes and make low sugar/calorie versions. A homemade low-fat eggnog could be less than 100 calories per 8oz glass. Have available calorie free beverages such as water and seltzers.
Focus less on the food around you and more on those around you and the conversation.
Don’t forget to continue to be active this winter whether you sign-up for a December race, go hiking with friends or workout in your home.
This month there are two featured recipes. One is a whole wheat stuffing which uses whole-wheat bread slices, celery, onion and reduced sodium chicken broth. To enhance the flavor and nutrition of stuffing, some people add mushrooms, granny smith apples and dried cranberries. Instead of using pre-seasoned bread crumbs, opt to make your own seasoning blend or use a sodium-free poultry seasoning (salt to taste). The featured recipe includes an egg and a small amount of oil, more heart healthy than your average recipe using a large amount of butter. This recipe can be found at http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/270735/whole-wheat-stuffing/.
Gravy tends to be a popular item that people pour onto their meat entree dish, mashed potatoes and stuffing. The second recipe is a fat-free gravy that is also low sodium and incorporates vegetables of onions, mushrooms and garlic. The seasonings provided enhanced flavor. Full recipe can be found at http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/270797/onion-mushroom-gravy/. Feel free to modify these featured dishes further and get creative. Search for other ideas and compare the nutritional content!
Jessica Richardson, RD, CD-N, is a clinical dietitian with Bristol Health.