Whether you’ve been sticking to a healthier eating plan all year or plan to embark on one, the holiday season can present a speed bump for many people. People often feel like they only have two choices: throw all your healthy eating habits out the window or just totally deprive yourself. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and it is possible to enjoy your holiday favorites without sabotaging your health or weight-loss goals.
Of course, there is a lot of good advice about eating in moderation, limiting empty calories and just focusing on your favorite dishes, or simply reducing portion sizes overall. Those things are all true. It’s important to be mindful when you eat, not just at the holidays but year round. But you can also reduce your holiday-eating guilt while maintaining healthy habits by substituting some common ingredients with healthier alternatives. Your dishes will be just as tasty, but a lot better for you.
Greek yogurt is a very versatile ingredient substitute. Not only can you use it instead of full-fat sour cream in appetizer dips, but you can also cook with it. Mixed with lemon, mustard, dill, salt, and pepper, or other spices, it makes a nice sauce for fish or poultry. Greek yogurt is also an easy replacement for sour cream in many baked desserts that won’t sacrifice taste. An ounce of sour cream has about 60 calories. An ounce of nonfat sour cream has about 25 calories. But, an ounce of nonfat plain Greek yogurt has only 15 to 20 calories. The savings can quickly add up.
When making vegetable side dishes, try roasting them instead of frying or adding glazes or butter. Roasting brings out rich flavors without adding calories and fat. Likewise, you can substitute fresh green beans for that green bean casserole.
If turkey is on your menu, stick to the white meat. The dark meat has about twice the fat of turkey breast and about 40 percent more calories. A 3.5-ounce portion of dark meat (about the size of a deck of cards) with the skin on has about 230 calories. The same amount of turkey breast without the skin is only about 160 calories, cutting about 70 calories as well as saturated fat.
Alcohol is notorious for adding a lot of unnecessary calories. You can still enjoy an adult beverage and save calories by using club soda as a mixer in your drinks. Since a 5-ounce glass of red or white wine has about 150 calories, replacing just two ounces of the wine saves you 60 calories.
And finally, have a small healthy snack to take the edge off before you go out. By substituting a ravenous hunger for a more manageable appetite, you will be less likely to want to overeat, resulting in less calories all the way around.
Josephine Raum MS, RD
Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
Cooper University Health Care