Making health the new holiday tradition

We all love the holidays. It’s a special time of year to create our own traditions and make memories with our families. But they also offer great opportunities to add a few extra pounds, with all the extra food, holiday parties and get-togethers. The problem is, when the Christmas tree is down, the scale often stays up.

Where do we go wrong?

• Constant nibbling/grazing instead of taking one plate

• Portion sizes, lack of moderation

• High-calorie recipes

• Inactivity

• Too busy to plan meals/snacks

How can you cut some of those extra calories?

• Turkey – Remove the skin, eat the white meat.

• Sweet potatoes – Flavor with apple juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

• Mashed potatoes – Whip with skim milk and roasted garlic.

• Stuffing – Oven bake with sautéed onions and celery.

• Green beans – Skip the casserole. Enjoy fresh, steamed green beans, topped with slivered almonds.

• Cranberries – Use whole cranberry sauce rather than jellied cranberry sauce.

• Dinner rolls – Choose whole-wheat, high-fiber breads.

• Pie – Slice your favorite pie into 10 pieces instead of 8.

• Candy – Savor a piece of peppermint after the holiday dinner!

For that holiday buffet, load up on fresh salads and vegetables, and drink a large glass of water before an alcoholic beverage. Here are a few other tips:

• Eat slowly and socialize while eating.

• Survey the offerings before getting in line – PLAN.

Make ONE trip to the buffet table.

• Only take the foods you really want.

• Eat Fruits & Veggies First – You will eat more of the foods you choose to eat first. Choose low-calorie foods first, such as fruit slices, raw or steamed vegetables and green leafy salads, to save calories.

• Less Is More – Eat smaller portions by using a salad plate or smaller bowl. Serve bite-size treats or appetizers. Save your extra calories for a special holiday treat you only eat once per year.

• Pass the Protein, Please – Include lean-protein foods in snacks and meals to help balance carbohydrate-rich foods, avoid blood sugar spikes and help you feel full longer. Opt for lean meat, poultry, seafood, low-fat cheese and nuts.

• Stay Active – Burn off calories from your meal by taking a brisk walk with friends and family or dancing at the holiday party.

• Get Your ZZZs – Seven to eight hours of sleep per night may aid in eating fewer calories and choosing healthier foods during the day

For the office parties, bring a fresh fruit or fresh-cut vegetable tray or make a homemade trail mix using whole-wheat cereal, dried fruit, pretzel sticks, nuts and M&M’s.

Try the French Onion Dip recipe to help cut back on those unwanted calories, but still offer a great, tasty option during your holiday get-together.

French Onion Dip

Serves 10 (about 1/4 cup each)

All you need:

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups chopped onions

3/4 tsp salt

1 (14 oz) can reduced-sodium beef broth

2 tsp onion powder

2 tbsp distilled white vinegar

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

All you do:

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Add broth, scrape up any browned bits, and simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated, 10 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Stir in onion powder, then stir in vinegar and cook until evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 20 minutes.

2. Combine sour cream and yogurt in a medium bowl. Stir in the onion mixture. Chill for at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate the onion mixture (Step 1) for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months. Cover and refrigerate the dip for up to 3 days.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 82 calories, 5g fat, 2g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 203mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 4g sugar, 3g protein.

Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.


The information is not intended as medical advice.   Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Laura Schmidt is a registered dietitian representing Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community.


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