Want to know how to stay fit over the holidays? Don’t worry.
We’ve got you covered. Read this to learn about the best drinks, desserts, side dishes and main courses.
When the holidays come around, life can get just a little more stressful for a medley of reasons. There are the family visits you have to make. Or, you could be having family visit you. Then there are the overcrowded shops selling items at much higher prices than you remember from last month, or just dealing with getting work done before the year is over. Whatever the case, your diet shouldn’t be one of those stressors. The holidays make dieters and those who are trying to lose weight and stay healthy cringe. Any holiday throughout the year generally involves lots of delicious, yet fatty and sugary foods that could make you fall off the wagon. But, there are lots of tricks to keeping fit over the holidays and not gaining weight. The number one tip is portion control. While your friends and family may be loosening their belts to make room for that extra plate of turkey, you should be tightening yours and eating slowly so that you fill up faster and don’t overeat. Here are a few more tips and cooking tricks to help you enjoy a lean and delicious holiday meal.
This Is What You Should Drink
While that holiday stress may have you reaching for a few glasses of wine or beer, you should hold back. Alcohol has a lot of calories and is one of the main contributors to holiday weight gain. One or two glasses are perfectly fine. Less is even better.
Eggnog is a classic holiday drink that can be made in a healthier way with the same great taste. Just use recipes with non-fat milk and a reduced amount of sugar and eggs. You can keep the same twist of bourbon that you may be used to. There are also low-calorie options of cranberry juice cocktails that are great for mixers or even on their own. The best thing to do is to always keep a glass of water handy. You should drink water often and as exclusively as possible. Why? It’ll help fill you up and counteract all the hearty food you’ll be eating so you don’t add any extra liquid calories.
What Should I Do About Holiday Appetizers?
For the holidays, average homes seem to turn into mini restaurants. This means that there are usually more courses tacked onto the main meal than you’re used to on a normal day. Appetizers may be one of the most challenging courses for your diet because they’re bite-sized and easy to eat. It doesn’t help that they come out when you’re at your hungriest. It’s easy to not feel guilty about eating a bunch of appetizers when they seem so small and harmless. But, then you still have to face at least two more courses with heartier and more fattening food when you’ve already dipped far into your calorie count for the day. The best way to deal with appetizers is to eat them sparingly and to focus on the healthier options. Skip the pastries and fatty cheeses. Go for the foods with veggies or nuts to snack on while you wait for the main event.
The Main Course Of The Day
The main course for any holiday meal is almost always a big deal. The chef brings out a giant platter loaded with the day’s main protein and surrounded by a bed of potatoes or roasted veggies. Then, everyone’s mouth starts to water. The platter is placed in the only remaining spot on the table that isn’t filled with side dishes. You can hear your stomach growl and your heart sink a little bit at the thought of the weight you’re going to gain from indulging in all the delicious food in front of you. But, there are actually some simple ways you can ensure that you will be eating healthy during this course.
First of all, the main dish can be very versatile.
Turkey is often a popular choice for holiday meals. That’s great news because turkey is already a lean meat. Most of the fat is added when the turkey is cooked. Lots of recipes call for a turkey to be smothered in butter and oil and continually basted with fatty gravy. You can leave off a great deal of the butter and sub in olive oil and a light, low-sodium broth to cook your turkey in and keep it juicy. Ham is also a common choice that is cooked with sugary honey glazes or fatty sauces. One way to combat this extra sugar is to baste ham with sarsaparilla or root beer instead of sugary soda to get a healthier and more natural caramelization that still tastes great. Pork tenderloin is also a leaner cut of meat and would be a great substitute for ham. You can even boost the health benefits of your dinner and take the seafood route for your main dish. Presenting a beautifully cooked salmon as the main course can be just as spectacular as a turkey or ham.
Your Guide To Holiday Side Dishes
Sides are an essential part to any holiday meal. Why? Because the main dish can’t be expected to stand alone. There are often more sides than there are people at the table and these sides serve to complement the main course. There are many ways to cook your favorite traditional sides in a healthier way. But, there are also plenty of new and healthy side dishes that you can add to the menu as well. Casseroles are popular during the holidays. They sometimes swing between being a main course or a side dish. Green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole are big favorites. Cooking a healthier version of a green bean casserole without changing up many of the ingredients is easy. For example, if you salt mushrooms right away when you sauté them, they’ll release moisture faster. This way you can use less oil to cook them in, and roasting whole shallots instead of sautéing them is a healthier way to cook them because it doesn’t add fat. Also, fresh breadcrumbs have fewer calories than dried breadcrumbs and you can substitute your casserole sauce with a low-fat canned soup. Potatoes come in many forms. They can be mashed, roasted, sliced, etc. The type of potato dish means a different cooking style, but all of these dishes can be made healthier. Mashed potatoes can be made with non-fat milk and sour cream instead of butter. Roasted potatoes can be made with light olive oil. There are a lot of healthy recipes online that can help you pick out the best potato recipe. One of the special side dishes for holiday meals is stuffing. Stuffing is often served in a separate side dish. But it can also be put inside the turkey or bird that is the centerpiece of the meal. Stuffing the bird before cooking it is a great way to get those stuffing flavors into your turkey.
Stuffing is easy to make healthy, too. Pack it with veggies like carrots, celery, onions, apple slices and whole grain brain to provide great flavor and a satisfying side dish. Simmer the veggies in chicken bouillon instead of butter to lower the fat content.
The Dessert Menu
Dessert is the worst course for those who are trying to stick to a diet. After a hearty meal, you may find your tongue craving the light sugar-filled taste of cakes and pies. Fruit pie filling has a lot of calories, but there are versions that are only half the calories. There’s even versions with no extra sugar added. There are many healthy recipes of classics like pecan pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie all over the Internet and they’re easy to make. Simple swaps like using egg whites instead of the whole egg can make a dessert much healthier. You could also try experimenting with different desserts. For example, a fruit salad with kiwi, bananas, kumquats, pomegranate seeds, mangoes and blood oranges makes a great fall dessert with all the sweetness of traditional fare. Whatever the dessert, it is still best to eat this course in moderation.
Holiday Cooking and Preparation Tips
Some tips and tricks have already been listed, but here are a few that you can use for all the courses. Try to avoid using butter as much as possible and use olive oil instead for a healthier and less fatty base. Using low-sodium broths for cooking instead of gravy will also help you save calories. Sour cream can be a great substitute in all dishes, especially light sour cream. Light sour cream has about half the calories of regular sour cream with all the same great taste. Sour cream can be subbed into recipes to add the creaminess you would normally get from butter or whipping cream. Herbs are great for cooking and seasoning. They are not only flavorful, but a lot of them have powerful health benefits that range from settling upset stomachs to helping to control the effects of diabetes. Use herbs as much as you can instead of salt to keep your food healthy. Veggies are great to use in your preparations as well because cooking veggies releases their natural sugars and flavors. They also help make a great low-calorie soup out of your holiday meal leftovers or even as an appetizer.
While it’s one thing to be conscious about your eating during the big holiday meals, it’s another thing to ensure you’re doing everything to keep weight off. Staying active throughout the whole holiday season instead of just worrying about those few meals will make sticking your diet even easier. Start a healthy eating pattern early so that it will be easier for you to hold back when the big day comes. This means you need to make healthy choices every day and figure out what foods fill you up so you’ll know your limits. On the big day, eat healthy meals during the whole day. Don’t skip breakfast and/or lunch as a way to excuse yourself from gorging on the delicious dinner. Skipping meals will leave you nutrient-deficient and more prone to eating too much of the unhealthy stuff, which will still make you gain weight. Reward yourself for sticking to your diet in other ways besides cheats. You may think that you’ve earned a reward for a day or two of eating healthy, but holidays are a stressful season and those rewards will start piling up until they completely cancel out the hard work you’ve put in to earn them. Instead, you could reward yourself by going out to a movie (without the snacks, of course) or scheduling yourself a massage. Another option to help you stay on the diet train for the holidays is to bring healthy food to dinner if you’re not the cook. People will often bring desserts if they’re guests, but it is perfectly acceptable to bring a healthy appetizer or side dish, if not for everyone then for yourself.
Staying healthy and not gaining weight over the holidays may seem like a difficult and almost impossible task, but following these tips is easy and will help you maintain your diet. No matter what your holiday traditions are, there are always recipes for healthier and leaner dishes that are easy to make and still taste great. Remember: You don’t need to be eating unhealthy dishes just because everyone else is. With a little discipline and a lot of portion control, you’ll have a very happy holiday! – By Sara Campanelli