The lights have been strung up, they’re playing holiday music on the radio, and you’re being offered a lot more cookies than usual. Ready or not, the holidays are here.
‘Tis the season for festivities filled with family, friends, fun and food. Lots of food. Food EVERYWHERE. Which makes it extra hard to eat healthy, especially when you still want to enjoy the holidays with the people you love. And yes, that means having yourself a slice of the family-recipe pie and loving every last bite. I won’t tell you not to, either, because you and your family can (and should) enjoy the holidays. What I will tell you is you can indulge this season without wrecking your healthy eating habits! Start with these simple tricks and easy ingredient swaps.
Don’t Arrive Hungry
Before you leave the house, have a healthy, balanced snack that includes a fruit or veggie along with a small serving of lean protein, so you aren’t showing up ravenous and ready to raid the dessert bar. Think cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fruit, 2 ounces of tuna on bell pepper slices, or 2 ounces of turkey lunchmeat rolled in lettuce with mustard or another condiment. Once you get there, reach for a smaller plate when serving yourself, because it makes your plate look fuller (mind tricks!). When in doubt, remember the MyPlate portion rule: 1/2 of your plate should be veggies and/or fruit, 1/4 should be starch (preferably whole-grain) and 1/4 should be protein.
Look Out for Liquid Calories
Pass on those calorie-bomb cocktails, and make a white or red wine spritzer your new drink of choice! Mix 2 ounces of wine, grape juice or cranberry juice with 2 ounces of club soda for a refreshing, sparkling adult beverage. Instead of traditional eggnog, choose hot-spiced cider, which can have half the calories and contains no saturated fat. If eggnog’s simply a must this holiday season, replace whole milk and full-fat cream with low-fat milk; chances are you won’t even notice what’s missing. Or try plant-based eggnogs to save on calories – you might find you actually prefer the taste!
Bake Cookies, But Have Other Traditions Too
Why not make one of your holiday traditions less about the food? Turn your usual countdown calendar into a fitness calendar. Behind each door, put a daily activity, like 25 jumping jacks or 15 mountain climbers, and keep track of each completed exercise with a sticker. The person with the most stickers at the end of the month wins a cool prize. Set up traditions that make your family healthier during the most wonderful time of the year!
Swap in Healthy Ingredients
Make a few easy swaps to lighten up your holiday favorites. When it comes to that tasty turkey, pack your plate with white meat instead of dark. Dark meat contains 20% more calories and 30% more fat. When you’re choosing pie, go with something that only has crust on the bottom, or try baking a crustless pie and add a few pecans to your slice. That way you still get some crunch in your bite, without all the extra calories.
Besides paying more attention to your diet, make sure you get enough sleep – you don’t want your nephew (who you haven’t seen in a year!) to mistake you for a zombie. Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy(ish) diet will help you get through this season unscathed by the holiday buffet. Just don’t stress too much about nibbling on that favorite cookie or side dish. It’s actually good to indulge once in a while!