Celebrate the Season with Healthy Choices

Celebrate the Season with Healthy Choices

‘Tis the season for celebrating with family and friends — and food. There is no substitute for getting together with the important people in your life. But there are substitutes for some of the less healthy holiday foods.

Making healthy food swaps can be easy, and focusing on family instead of food will make your celebrations even better.

Simple Healthier Choices
It is easy to eat too much during the holidays. But a few simple tricks can help. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Eat slowly.
  • Put down your fork between bites.
  • Portion sizes do matter, even if you are eating something that is healthy for you.
  • Wait 10 minutes after you eat before choosing anything else.

Snack Swaps
Cookbook author and nutritionist Ellie Krieger points to three changes that can make your holiday nibbles healthier:

  • Choose a candy cane over a chocolate truffle and save 65 calories.
  • Try a glass of champagne instead of a cup of eggnog and save 190 calories. You’ll also be skipping a half a day’s suggested allowance of saturated fat.
  • Scoop up a large handful of pistachios in the shell instead of mixed nuts and save 250 calories.

Mealtime
Chances to make healthier food choices are all around. You can make changes in how you cook holiday favorites. And you can make better selections from the buffet table. Try these tips from choosemyplate.govopen link in new window

  • Give your favorite holiday dishes a makeover. Figure out a way to make each one a little bit healthier. Try milk instead of heavy cream in a casserole, for example.
  • Sample new foods and try all the food groups at a party or meal. Have hummus with whole-grain crackers. Don’t skip the fresh fruit at the dessert table.
  • Choose a lean protein. That includes turkey, roast beef, beans and some types of fish, like cod or flounder.
  • Use a light touch when dishing out the sauces and gravies. They can be high in salt and saturated fat.
  • Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Or try seltzer water with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter in baked goods. Give it a test run before serving the dish at a holiday event.
  • You can also try cutting down the amount of sugar listed in recipes. Use spices to add flavor. Cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg can help you trim the sugar and salt.

If you’re open to trying some new, healthier recipes, one good source is the American Diabetes Associationopen link in new window The recipe center offers healthy eating ideas for everyone, not just those with high blood sugar.

Focus on People and Activities
Shifting your focus away from food and making your celebrations more about other people is a great way to stay healthier over the holidays.

Celebrate by giving to others. Consider donating foods or helping to make meals for those in need. Check with your local food bank or homeless shelter for ways to help.

At parties or big meals, don’t just stand by the food table talking to whoever comes by. Socialize away from food. Make a point of going around and visiting with everyone. Go to another room and play board games.

Gathering friends and family for activities is a fun way to socialize and add some exercise to your holidays. After a big meal, lead your friends and family on a walk. Get everyone up and dancing at a party. Play games that get you moving, like charades. Or go outside and play tag or touch football. Get more fun holiday activity ideas from Verywell Family. open link in new window

RecipesMake new traditions.
Trying new recipes and new ways of making old ones, focusing on people, and enjoying group activities can make your holidays healthier, more meaningful and more fun. Maybe the healthy changes will even become new traditions.

Add new recipes to your family traditions

Traditions run deep during the holidays. Friends and families gather to cook the foods they grew up with. But many of our traditional recipes are heavy on sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Adding some new recipes to the mix can be a fun way to help you stay healthier. Try these tasty holiday recipes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Sources: Healthy Holiday Swaps, Open link in new window EllieKrieger.com; 10 Tips: Make Healthier Holiday ChoicesOpen link in new window choosemyplate.gov, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016; All RecipesOpen link in new window American Diabetes Association; Tips for Eating Healthy During the HolidaysOpen link in new window American Academy of Family Physicians, 2017; Festive Holiday Party Games to Get the Family MovingOpen link in new window Verywell Family, 2019; Healthy, Thrifty Holiday MealsOpen link in new window SNAP-Ed Connection, U.S. Department of Agriculture

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