Healthy Holiday Foods

Photo Credit: Ben Franske CC-BY-SA-3.0 2002

It can be tough to stick to your diet during the holiday season. There are so many traditional and delicious holiday dishes that lure you to indulge and it can be nearly impossible to resist. It’s okay to have a piece of pie or an extra spoonful of stuffing occasionally, but keep in mind that you may have to cut back somewhere else to make up for the extra calories and fats. To avoid over-indulging in fatty, sugary, calorie-laden foods during the holidays, make food choices that will fill you up, taste great and pack fewer calories than other banquet options.

Start with a salad of fresh lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. Do not use fatty salad dressings or select a dressing with vinegar and vegetable oil. Any dish made with whole grains (e.g. wheat rolls & brown rice) and wheat fiber (e.g. quinoa and bulga). Seafood including shrimp, lobster and fish are a good choice for protein. Choose steamed seafood instead of fried fish. Skip the gravy on those mashed potatoes. Choose a variety of vegetables and fresh fruits from the holiday banquet table instead of pies, puddings and cakes. Your sweet tooth can be satisfied by fresh fruits like apples, grapes, blueberries and oranges.  Pre-banquet hors d’oeuvres of fresh olives, cheese and whole wheat crackers can help you feel fuller so that you don’t over-indulge at the table. Hard cheese provides calcium for your bones and whole grain crackers provide protein and fiber.

Cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries and little or no sugar provide all the benefits of fresh fruit and urinary tract health without the added calories of the sugar. Nuts, dates and raisins are delicious and loaded with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats your body needs. Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A and potassium. A tasty, low-calorie alternative to traditional holiday pumpkin pie, which is loaded with sugar, is a low-sugar recipe that uses artificial sweeteners or honey to sweeten the pumpkin. Yams contain a number of beneficial nutrients including Vitamin C, potassium and carotenoids. Brown sugar is more flavorful and less fattening than processed white sugar. Substitute brown sugar to sweeten dishes, such as baked yams, when possible. 

For more information and food suggestions, see:

WebMD, Naughty and Nice Holiday Foods, Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD, 2008

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