Healthier Holiday Meals

The holiday’s are hear, and while I sometimes error on the side of eating too much (see our Hunger Meter), I do try to eat a balanced holiday meal. Here are a few tips and recipes on the traditional holiday favorites that will trim calories and boost nutrition.

Green Bean Casserole

The green beans are great, but the rest of the ingredients lead up to a high fat high calorie feast! Why not serve up fresh steamed green beans without all the extras? Steam beans to tender-crisp then sauté with diced shallots and toasted sliced almonds.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes don’t have to be loaded up with cream and butter to taste great. Take advantage of the natural creaminess of potatoes. You can also ramp up the flavor by adding fresh herbs, spices, and other flavor enhancers such as sweet roasted garlic. Here’s one recipe to trim up the calories in mashed potatoes:

Healthier Mashed Potatoes - mobile

Sweet Potato Casserole

Candied yam—another vegetable dish turned into a sugar-and fat-laden indulgence. For a new tradition, try this Meringue-topped Sweet Potato Casserole, reprinted with permission from Eating Well (EatingWell.com/recipes/sweet_ potato_meringue_casserole.html):

Sweet Potato Casserole_Mobile

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving tradition in many homes. This year, create a new tradition by making a homemade cranberry apple sauce that is lower in added sugar and higher in fruit than the traditional and canned versions.

Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce - Mobile

Just Be Sneaky About Sneaking in Exercise

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can challenge our best intentions. Don’t let your hectic schedule interfere with physical activity. Find ways to sneak in exercise even when you’re busy.

  1. Power shop – Spend 10-15 minutes briskly walking through the mall before you start your shopping.
  2. Take the stairs – At work, the mall, the airport—wherever they are present—opt for the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  3. Stage a walk-out – A brisk walk before dinner will have everyone looking forward to a warm meal. Together, your friends and family will get their metabolism going, lower their blood sugar levels, and work up a hearty appetite.
  4. Family time is fun time – Teach good fitness habits to your kids while accumulating benefits for yourself.
  5. Make a new holiday tradition – Play a family-friendly game of kickball or tag football on the holiday or the day after. Give everyone something else to look forward too than just food.

    Snowy ping pong

    Our staff sneaking out for a game of ping pong in the snow! Not recommended, but fun!

  6. To give is to receive – Holidays are about giving, and one of the best ways to give is to volunteer your time. Many communities offer opportunities to rake leaves or shovel snow for the elderly or disabled. This volunteer work is sure to make you sweat.
  7. Crank up the tunes and dance – With everyone home for the holidays, it’s a great time to turn up that jazzy holiday music and kick up your heels. Dancing burns lots of calories and can help you beat those winter blues!

These are all simple and easy ways to burn a few extra calories for when the holidays leave us in a daze.  What other ways can you find to be more active throughout the day?

Tips to Avoid Getting Stuffed this Holiday

It’s easy to overeat any time of the year, but the holidays can be especially challenging. Try one or all of these tools to keep from overindulging this holiday season:

  1. Gauge Your Hunger/Fullness The Hunger Meter infographic
  2. Keep a Record
    The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published a study reviewing the evidence-based effects of self-monitoring in weight loss. The review found weight loss was strongly associated with tracking food intake, exercise, and weekly weight check-ins. During the holidays, use a food journal to keep yourself aware, honest, and to avoid over-indulgences by planning ahead.There are several free online food and exercise tracking systems. There are also multiple apps available for your mobile device. A good place to start is ChooseMyPlate.gov to find out approximately how many calories you need each day, and track your intake using the SuperTracker.
  3. Fill Your Plate with Low-calorie Fruits and Veggies – Research shows that we tend to eat a certain volume (weight) of food consistently. So by choosing more low-calorie, highwater weight foods (fruits, vegetables, and cooked beans), you will eat fewer calories each day (Nutrition Action Health Letter. March 2012. Don’t Be Dense – Trim calories per bite to trim pounds).Make sure at least half your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. Enjoy high-fat foods in smaller amounts as seasoning rather than main ingredients.