There are so many delicious foods that are holiday traditions, which can make it challenging to stay on track, especially if they aren’t the healthiest for you. While it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, there’s no reason to deny yourself the special treats that come with the holiday season.
With a few easy substitutions, it is possible to enjoy the delicious holiday flavors without destroying the progress you’ve made this year. Here are some healthy alternatives to classic holiday foods that won’t leave you feeling guilty after the holiday season.
- Rich holiday soups: There’s nothing quite like a creamy and warm soup on a cold winter day. Seasonal favorites, like pumpkin or butternut squash soups, and seafood bisques are often made with heavy cream, which is high in saturated fat and calories. Try substituting coconut milk or almond milk for the heavy cream to minimize the calories while maintaining the smooth and creamy consistency.
- Holiday cookies: Holiday cookies are hard to turn down! Instead of indulging in fat and sugar-filled cookies, try a meringue instead! Made with a few egg whites, a small amount of cream of tartar and your sweetener of choice, meringue cookies will still give you that indulgent treat without the calories. You can even use meringue to top cupcakes or cakes instead of frosting!
- Applesauce: If you do a lot of holiday baking, a simple substitute is to use the same amount of applesauce in place of the oil in your recipe. Applesauce is lower in fat and also has extra fiber, and can be used in all baked good products, like brownies and muffins.
- Cocktails: If you plan on drinking alcohol, skip the beer and wine. Spirits tend to be lower in sugar and calories and can sometimes be a better choice. Just be sure to watch your mixers; avoid juices and sodas and opt for soda water, or just have your drinks on the rocks instead.
- Coffee shop drinks: Instead of the fancy, sugar-filled coffee drinks, try a plain black coffee and add skim milk or your preferred artificial sweetener. If you’re really in the mood for something different, try a nonfat cappuccino or latte and add sugar-free syrups for flavor.
- Breakfast or brunch: The calories in a Christmas morning breakfast or brunch can very rapidly add up, especially if you eat pancakes, French toast, waffles or meats like bacon or sausage. For a healthier breakfast, stick to scrambled eggs or egg substitutes. You can also throw in your favorite veggies for an omelet.
- Bread basket: Bread is a huge source of empty calories and sugar, especially when it is white or processed bread. This year, skip the bread and rolls and help yourself to an extra serving of salad instead. You’ll easily save some calories, sugar and fat (if you put butter on your bread) and load up on fiber and nutrient rich veggies instead.
- Potato Pancakes: If you make potato pancakes, or latkes, as part of your holiday tradition, there are many ways that you can make them a little healthier. First, try switching out the potatoes for another vegetable. Sweet potatoes, beets or carrots all work really well. You can also try baking them instead of frying them, or just lightly sauté them in a little bit of olive oil.
- Veggie dips: A fresh vegetable tray is a great appetizer to put on your holiday table (and even easier to bring as a dish to dinner somewhere else). It gives you something healthy to nosh on, plus cold veggies are crunchy and satisfying to snack on. Make sure to watch what you’re using for a dip. Sour cream based dips are often high in fat and calories and aren’t the best choice for someone watching their weight. Instead, substitute low fat or nonfat Greek yogurt for the sour cream. The yogurt is higher in protein and much lower in fat and calories.
- Pasta: If pasta is a family tradition, give Zoodles a try instead this year. Zoodles are noodles made from a zucchini. You can purchase a vegetable spiralizer specifically for the job, or you can take a vegetable peeler and peel off long strips of zucchini. Zoodles don’t need to be boiled as you would pasta. Sauté them in a hot pan with a little oil for a few minutes to warm up. The trick is to not cook them for more then a few minutes or they will get soft and soggy. Top them with your favorite sauce!
- Mashed potatoes: If you love mashed potatoes, try mashing a mixture of both potatoes and cauliflower, or go for all cauliflower instead. Adding cauliflower lowers the calorie count of the potatoes without sacrificing any of the taste.
The holidays are a time to enjoy yourself and the time you have to spend with loved ones. It’s also a time of indulgence and treating yourself. The good news is that it’s actually pretty simple to enjoy your holiday traditions without giving up the progress you’ve made. Give these simple substitutions a try, or talk to your Medifast weight loss counselor for some more suggestions.