Now is the time to start thinking about how to maintain a healthy diet during the upcoming holiday season.
Choosing healthier foods, being mindful of your portions, and making a few smart substitutions in your holiday menus and recipes can help you stay healthy and still enjoy the season’s feasts and festivities.
Registered dietitian Megan Day, MS, RD, of the Cooper Diabetes Center, offers the following fat- and calorie-reduction tips for some of your holiday favorites:
Choose healthier food options, such as fresh or roasted fruits and vegetables, and grilled or broiled lean meats and fish without the skin. Limit high-fat dressings, including mayonnaise, sour cream, oil and butter; or substitute these high-fat ingredients with the low-fat or non-fat versions. For instance, use skim milk or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk or cream. Try low-fat cottage cheese or plain yogurt in place of cream cheese. When possible, bake or broil appetizers instead of frying; and increase dietary fiber by choosing whole grain breads, peas and beans. Other healthier options to consider are hummus, shrimp cocktail, water crackers, Melba toast, and popcorn seasoned with herbs.
Use puréed fruits in place of oil for cakes, muffins or cookies. For example, if a cake recipe calls for a half-cup of vegetable oil, use a half-cup of applesauce instead. Prune puree is a good substitute for oil in chocolate cake recipes. These substitutions can significantly cut fats without compromising moisture, texture and flavor. For those watching their cholesterol, two egg whites or one-quarter cup of egg substitute can replace one whole egg.
Considering that the average Thanksgiving dinner contains an estimated 3,000 calories, which is more than most people should eat in an entire day, every little bit counts when it comes to reducing the meal’s total caloric content. Here are some steps that can help you cut calories from your menu without sacrificing taste or tradition:
- Turkey. Eat the white meat rather than the dark meat and don’t eat the skin. White meat has less than half the calories and a quarter of the fat contained in dark meat with skin.
- Stuffing. Use a recipe with raisins or other dried fruit instead of one with sausage or nuts. Substitute some or all of the butter with fat-free chicken broth. Cook the stuffing outside the bird so it doesn’t absorb the turkey’s fat drippings while roasting.
- Mashed potatoes. Replace the fats – cream, butter, sour cream – with the low-fat or non-fat varieties, and season with pepper and herbs.
- Sweet potatoes. Forgo the butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. Instead, mash and flavor the sweet potatoes with orange juice, orange zest and buttermilk.
- Pumpkin pie. Use a low-fat recipe that calls for evaporated skim milk, egg whites and low-fat pie shells in place of the higher-fat ingredients.
Day also offers these helpful hints:
“You can also save calories by drinking non-caloric beverages, such as water, diet soda, or diet or unsweetened iced tea. When you know you’re going to a holiday party, eat a small, healthy snack prior to leaving the house so you don’t over-eat when you get there. Remember, too, to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes to feel full, so chew slowly and try to wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds. It’s much easier to eat more the faster you eat. Check out the entire table before deciding which foods you want to eat, and decide which ones are worth the calories. Don’t forget to save room for dessert, but stick with small portions.”