Holiday season is upon us, a prime time for loosening the belt, sticking to stretchy pants, and making way for those delicious meals. The Calorie Control Council estimates that Americans consumed 3000 to 4500 calories at their Thanksgiving meal and are expected to take in over 7000 calories on Christmas Day. Add in all the holiday parties in between, from Friendsgiving and the Ugly Sweaters to the office potluck, and suddenly you’re doubling, or tripling, your average caloric intake. And skipping meals to save calories may only result in overeating. So, what are you to do?
Here are a few simple swaps you can make amid all the food festivities to rid that guilty conscience and save your waistline.
Veggie platters are typically the centerpiece of every gathering and the ranch, French onion, or blue cheese dip is the center of the platter. With 150 calories in two tablespoons of ranch, skip the dip and opt for hummus. Hummus has only 50 calories for the same serving amount, and with all the different flavors out there, it’s just as appealing. For an appetizer, try a shrimp cocktail in place of fried finger foods. It’s just as simple to set up.
Candied yams are delicious. There’s no arguing they may be the best holiday dinner side dish. However, as the name suggests, they are also filled with sugar. Leave the “candied” to after the meal, and make oven roasted sweet potatoes instead, with some olive oil, cinnamon, and toasted pecans. Green bean casserole can easily be made healthier by eliminating the cream of mushroom soup, flour, and fried onions. Instead, steam fresh green beans as desired and add a nice broth with some chopped almonds. If all else fails for either of these dishes and you crave something sweet, top it off with some raw honey, a good source of antioxidants.
Holiday basics are easy to trim down. Store bought cranberry sauce typically has more sugar than necessary, and our taste buds become more used to it the more we give in. Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce has 22 grams of sugar per serving (121 grams in the whole can). Making it at home is a lot simpler than you’d think and rids the excessive ingredients. Add in a whole, freshly-squeezed orange and honey (you can’t go wrong with raw honey) instead.
Bread-based stuffing is undoubtedly delicious but it’s also full of calories and heavy carbs. Replace the bread base with quinoa or wild rice and add in the rest as usual. It’ll taste like something old meeting a new tradition. Mashed cauliflower is a good tradeoff for mashed potatoes. Cauliflower has loads of vitamin C and the same texture and a flavor not far from the typical dish.
Creating holiday desserts is perhaps the hardest part of trying to cut back those cravings. However, here are a few suggestions. Trade in the hot chocolate or eggnog for some mulled cider, made of apple cider, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, nutmeg, whole cloves, and an orange. It’s perfect with dessert and sitting by the fire but with a fraction of the calories. Apple pie is a classic but to switch it up with a healthier version try baked apples, either sliced or whole. Add honey instead of sugar and almond milk instead of flour. You can even use the extra juice in tea or your mulled cider!