The holiday season is filled with traditions — and amazing food! While delicious, all of these meals and treats can be problematic for people trying to maintain a healthy eating pattern. How are you supposed to choose nutrition over homemade desserts and family favorites?
The simple answer is planning. Going into an event with a game plan will allow you to enjoy the food you love without guilt and regret the next day. To help you get started, I’ve provided 10 tips for a healthier holiday (and some recipes with healthy versions of holiday favorites).
Healthy Holiday Tips
- Avoid skipping meals. This can lead to increased hunger and desire for more food!
- Eat at regularly scheduled times. Avoid going longer than 4 – 5 hours without eating. If your schedule doesn’t allow for regular meal breaks, be sure to bring healthy snacks with you.
- Don’t graze. Nibbling on food in the break room (or the kitchen counter) all day can add up to a lot of consumed calories. If you are hungry, eat. Don’t just mindlessly BLT – that’s bite, lick and taste.
- Avoid drinking your calories. Wine, beer, soda, eggnog, and other holiday drinks can be loaded with calories. Pay attention to what you drink as much as what you eat. To reduce calories, try water, sparkling water with no added sugar or other low-calorie or sugar-free options. If alcohol is included, moderate your intake. You can even stretch your alcohol calories by spritzing with seltzer, diet soda or fruit juice.
- Slow down. Whether at a party or at home, a great way to keep your eating in check is take smaller bites, chew your food longer and put your fork down between bites. This is a good practice to follow all year long and can help you enjoy your food and eat less.
- Plan meals ahead and take time to grocery shop! When you don’t have the foods you need, it’s easy to settle for high calorie options and junk food. Make a grocery list and check it twice!
- Eat your favorite holiday foods. You don’t have to forgo those favorites. Make a decision on what you want to eat the most and enjoy every bite. Being selective and mindful about what and how much you consume allows you to indulge and be satisfied without blowing your diet.
- Be smart at the big holiday meal.
- Strategize on how to avoid consuming extra calories. Examples include being choosey, enjoying higher calorie holiday favorites in smaller amounts, and filling up on lean protein, vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
- Enjoy 1 plate of food vs. multiple plates. Remember, there will be other times, and there are always leftovers!
- Positive self-talk. Yes, you want to eat that cookie, but think about what you gain in better health.
- Don’t stuff yourself. Work on leaving the holiday party comfortably full but not overly full.
- If attending a holiday buffet, keep your focus on conversation away from the buffet table. Keep a low-calorie/sugar-free beverage in hand to enjoy!
- If you’re the host, offer healthier foods options or bring a healthier food to the party.
- Most importantly, enjoy this time with those you love.
See the recipe ideas below for healthier holiday recipes to be enjoyed at home for quick weeknight meals or at the holiday table with family and friends.
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
¾ Teaspoon Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1 ½ Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 Garlic Clove, Thinly Sliced
½ Teaspoon Paprika
½ Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
¼ Teaspoon Pepper
1 Pound Uncooked Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first eight ingredients. Add shrimp; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate 2 hours.
2. Drain shrimp, discarding marinade. Place shrimp on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat 3 – 4 minutes on each side or until shrimp turn pink. Yield: about 2 ½ dozen.
Source: Adapted from www.tasteofhome.com
Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
*Chickpeas, once roasted, take on the flavor and texture of nuts, making them a fun snack. Prepare the simple appetizer for any holiday party or just a great tasting snack.
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained and patted dry
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle.
2. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Spread the chickpeas in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Peanut Butter Fruit Dip
1 cup (8 oz.) vanilla yogurt, no sugar added
½ cup peanut butter
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup Cool Whip Light
Assorted fresh fruit
In a bowl, combine the yogurt, peanut butter and cinnamon; mix well. Fold in the whipped topping. Refrigerate until serving. Serve with fruit. Yield: 1 2/3 cups.
Source: Adapted from Taste of Home Holiday Recipe Care Collection
Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip
1 (17 oz.) container of 2% Greek yogurt (or about 2 cups of your favorite brand)
3 tbsp. light mayonnaise
2 tbsp. honey
1 cup finely chopped kale
1 cup finely chopped spinach
3 thin green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red pepper
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.
*The key is to chop everything as finely as possible! This dip is extra flavorful after it sits for a few hours (refrigerated of course). Taste and season to your desired. Serve with whole grain crackers or raw vegetables.
Source: Source: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/11/spinach-and-kale-greek-yogurt-dip/
Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
1 lb dry uncooked black beans
1 cup salsa
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1. Mince the garlic, dice the onion and celery, and grate the carrots on a large holed cheese grater. Rinse the black beans
in a colander under cool running water and pick out any stones or debris.
2. Combine the garlic, onion, celery, carrots, black beans, salsa, chili powder, cumin, oregano, vegetable broth, and water in a 5-7-quart slow cooker. Stir well.
3. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 6-8 hours (you want the beans to get VERY soft). Once the beans are very soft, use an immersion blender** to blend the soup until it is thick and creamy (leave some beans whole if desired). Taste the soup and add salt if needed (this will depend on the brand of vegetable broth used)
**If you do not have an immersion blender, wait until the soup cools some and then use a blender to purée the soup in batches. Make sure to never blend hot liquids as they can build pressure in the blender and explode, causing severe burns.
Pomegranate Roasted Chicken
“This whole roast chicken is flavored with a pomegranate-juice glaze and decorated with thyme and pomegranate seeds.”
1 cup no sugar added pomegranate juice
3-pound whole chicken
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1. Heat pomegranate juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to ¼ cup. Set aside. Meanwhile, let the chicken come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Brush chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Tie legs and transfer to a large ovenproof skillet
3. Roast chicken, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and brush with reduced pomegranate juice; let stand 10 minutes. Deglaze skillet over medium heat with stock, scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half. Strain fat. Add thyme and pomegranate seeds. Serve with chicken
Mexican Chicken Casserole
3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 green pepper, chopped
1 ½ cups TACO BELL Thick & Chunky Salsa
2 oz. (1/4 of 8 oz. pkg.) Philadelphia Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
1 can (15 oz.) no-salt-added black beans, rinsed
1 tomato, chopped
2 whole wheat tortillas (6-inch)
½ cup Kraft Mexican style 2% Milk Finely Shredded Four Cheese, divided
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cook and stir chicken and cumin in nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium heat 2 minute. Add peppers; cook 2 minutes stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in salsa; cook 2 minutes.
4. Add Neufchatel; cook 2 minutes or until melted. Stir in beans and tomatoes.
5. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture onto bottom of 8-inch square baking dish; cover with 1 tortilla and half each of the remaining chicken mixture and shredded cheese.
6. Top with remaining tortilla and chicken mixture; cover.
7. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining chicken shredded cheese; bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until melted.
Protein-Packed Broccoli Salad
4 cups Fresh broccoli florets
½ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 large apples, chopped
½ cup toasted sunflower seeds
¼ cup dried cranberries
1 cup Low fat plain cottage cheese
2 Tbsp. skim milk
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1 Tbsp.
¼ tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1. In a food processor, combine dressing ingredients. Pulse until smooth.
2. Combine salad ingredients in a bowl and mix.
3. Pour dressing over mixture and stir to coat
4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
Note: If you do not plan to enjoy this salad right away, add sunflower seeds to it later so they don’t become soggy.
Accessed from https://muuna.com/recipes
Loaded Cauliflower Casserole
6 -8 strips center cut bacon or turkey bacon,
cut ½-inch thick
2 medium heads cauliflower, cut into bite-
size florets (3 to 4 pounds total)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. Philadelphia 1/3 less fat Neufchatel Cheese,
at room temperature
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2/3 cup light sour cream or fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Cook the bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and
crispy, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Put the cauliflower florets in a 3-quart casserole dish. Toss with the reserved 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Roast until the florets are soft and begin to brown, about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, mix together the cream cheese and 1 cup of the Cheddar cheese in a medium bowl until well combined. Dollop over the cauliflower, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup Cheddar cheese and bake until the cauliflower is tender when poked with a knife and the Cheddar is melted and bubbly, 5 to 7 minutes more.
5. Dollop the light sour crème or fat-free, plain Greek yogurt evenly over the casserole and sprinkle with the
scallions and reserved bacon pieces.
Source: Adapted from www.foodnetwork.com
Caramelized Pear Yogurt Mousse
3 (15 oz) cans of canned pear halves in 100% juice
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 Tbsp granulated sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1 Tbsp
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
2 cups sugar free vanilla pudding
1 cup Greek style light vanilla yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the pear halves, cut-side down, on a
baking sheet with sides and brush with oil. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar substitute, cinnamon, and ginger. Sprinkle the pears with sugar and spice mixture and bake 35 to 40 minutes, turning once, until the pears have caramelized. Remove from the oven, and
set aside to cool to room temperature. Once they have cooled, chill 6 pear halves until ready to serve and dice
the remaining pears.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the pudding, yogurt, and diced pears, folding the ingredients together gently to
thoroughly combine. Divide the mousse between 6 serving dishes, and then cover and chill until ready to serve.
To serve, top each dish with a caramelized pear half.
Healthy Recipe Substitutions
Role of Sugar in Baking
Sugar Substitutes & Sugar Blends
- Structure, texture & volume
- Enhances caramelization & browning
- Helps retain moistness & tenderness in baked goods
- Can act as a preservative, keeping baked goods fresh
There are now a variety of sugar substitutes available for purchase to replace added sugars as a tabletop sweetener or to be used in cooking and baking. Many product lines may be purchased in different forms such as packets or spoonable form. Some products are created to measure cup for cup as sugar when replacing sugar in recipes. Some products are a blend of sugar and a sugar substitute providing baking qualities of sugar with fewer calories.
Companies of each product have developed recipes for the specific sugar substitute, tips for using the products in cooking/baking and conversion charts. Consumers can register for newsletters, coupons & free samples for many of the products reviewed.
The recipes in this cookbook were often replaced with Splenda Granular or Splenda Sugar/Brown Sugar Blend. Please feel free to substitute the sugar substitute/sugar blend of your choice. Splenda Granular measures cup for cup replacing sugar: 1 cup sugar = 1 cup Splenda Granular. Splenda Sugar/Brown Sugar Blend converts to 1 cup sugar/brown sugar = ½ cup Splenda Sugar Blend.