Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Nov. 2, 2010
It’s that time of year again, when waistbands stretch to accommodate rich meals and sweet treats. Northwest Hospital dietitian Linsday Martin, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., says there are easy ways to revamp your recipes so that the foods you make are better for you.

“Use the lower fat versions of cream cheese and sour cream,” Martin says. “Instead of half-and-half, use 1 percent or skim milk. Plain, fat-free yogurt can take the place of a whipped topping on a dessert.” She offers a caveat about yogurt, however: some fat-free versions have more added sugar to make up the taste, so read labels.

Martin also has a tip for baked goods. Use puréed fruits instead of oil for cakes, muffins or cookies. For example, if a cake recipe requires ½ cup of vegetable oil, use ½ cup of applesauce instead. “You’d be surprised that you get the same flavor, moisture and texture,” she says.

For those watching their cholesterol, two egg whites or ¼ cup of egg substitute can replace one whole egg.

It’s estimated that the average Thanksgiving “meal” contains 3,000 calories – more than most people should eat in an entire day. So how can you enjoy a tasty tradition without ending up in a calorie coma?

  • The bird – “With turkey, eat the white rather than the dark meat,” says Martin. “And don’t eat the skin.” She says she seasons her bird with celery, onions and herbs, which impart flavor to the meat even without the benefit of the skin. White meat has less than half the calories – and a quarter of the fat – of dark meat with skin.
  • Stuffing – Cook stuffing outside the bird so it doesn’t absorb the fat drippings. Instead of adding sausage or nuts, use a recipe with raisins or other dried fruit. Replace some or all of the butter with fat-free chicken broth.
  • Mashed potatoes – These favorites can be another caloric pitfall, so season them with pepper and herbs and use low-fat butter, fat-free half-and-half or reduced-fat sour cream.
  • Sweet potatoes – These can be a healthy alternative, but not if they are loaded down with butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. Instead, mash and flavor them with orange juice, orange zest and buttermilk.
  • Green bean casserole – This classic gets a makeover with 98 percent fat-free cream of mushroom soup.
  • Cranberry sauce – A sugar minefield, so try this low-cal treat: rinse the jelly off canned cranberries and sweeten them with a little honey and citrus.
  • Pumpkin pie – Not terrible, but make it even healthier by avoiding eating the end piece of crust.

Finally, if you must make the traditional recipes, “cut the portion size down,” says Martin. “Watch your total calorie intake, because that’s what ultimately will put on the pounds. Eat slowly and savor the taste of your food.”

5 Tips for Navigating the Holiday Buffet Table

Because you can’t always control how much fat and calories holiday foods contain, here are five tips from LifeBridge Health dietitians for eating better at a holiday party:

1. Try not to hang out near the food, which could lead to mindless grazing. Approach the buffet table with purpose.

2. If there are two plate sizes, use the dessert plate if it’s not too tiny. This will create the illusion of having more food.

3. Before you pile your plate, survey the buffet table to see what’s there. Choose only the foods that you will truly enjoy.

4. There’s no prestige in being a member of the clean plate club. It’s OK not to eat everything on your plate.

5. Eat your calories instead of drinking them. A glass of beer, punch or eggnog might be 200 to 500 calories. Stick to sparkling water, diet soda or even red wine.

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