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Holiday Meals: Do’s and Don’ts

Posted November 8, 2021 by Bellin Health

The holidays are fast approaching and for many of us this is a time to relax and enjoy a variety of tasty foods. However, some of us may be worried about the extra pounds that often are associated with the holidays. It’s estimated that an average American gains 1-2 lb. each holiday season. This doesn’t mean that we’re destined to gain weight during the holidays. By following a few simple tips, you will be on your way to enjoying tasty foods while avoiding the holiday bulge.

DO offer a variety of fruits and vegetables as appetizers. These lower calorie foods are packed with fiber and fluid, which may take the edge off our hunger. Make these foods more appetizing by making kabobs or use cookie cutters to cut fruit into different shapes. Pair fruits and vegetables with homemade yogurt or fluff type dips. See recipes below. Hummus or guacamole can also make vegetables more appealing.

DON’T forget about the calories and added sugar in beverages. Clients are often surprised to find out that their beverages can tack on another 300-500 calories along with 50-100 grams of added sugar. Do your waistline a favor and opt for lower calorie beverages over the holidays. Try seltzer waters (La Croix, bubly, ICE, etc.) or drink packets (True lemon, Stur, Mio, Crystal Light, etc.) added into water.

DO serve a lean protein as part of the meal. Protein, along with fiber appears to help with weight control and hunger. However, many holidays meals consist of mainly carbohydrate rich dishes including noodle or rice based casseroles, stuffing, desserts, potatoes and rolls. Balance these starchy dishes with baked or grilled chicken, fish, pork or lean beef. If you’re trying to cut back on animal protein, opt for bean based soups/casseroles, veggie burgers or roasted tofu.

DON’T serve the food at the table. Instead, serve the food in the kitchen and eat at the table. This simple technique may help us cut back on second and third helpings. Further, try to put foods away shortly after finishing the meal. This may also reduce temptations for second helpings. If you find leftovers to be too tempting, send most of the leftovers home with guests or family members.

DO try “skinnified” versions of recipes. We are fortunate that we live in time where we have access to thousands of recipes online. Many of these recipe websites have “skinnified” versions of traditional holiday dishes. My personal favorites are skinnytaste.com and cookinglight.com.

Skinnifying Tips:

  • Cut sugar in dessert recipes by 1/4 or 1/3 the original amount.
  • Sub in applesauce instead of oil in baked good. 1 to 1 ratio.
  • Reduce butter amounts by 1/3 or 1/2 in recipes.
  • Opt for 90/10 ground meats instead of 80/20.
  • Replace full fat cream cheese with Nuefchatel (1/3 fat) cream cheese.

DON’T starve yourself before the event. Some believe that skipping meals prior to the holiday meal will help them save on calories. Unfortunately, this strategy often backfires and individuals actually end up eating more calories by the end of the night. I often encourage clients to have a fiber and protein rich mini meal prior to the event. These mini meals can take the edge off our hunger and may actually help save us on calories in the long-run.

Mini Meal Ideas:

  • Mixed salad greens with berries, 1-2 hardboiled eggs and nuts
  • Medium bowl of oatmeal mixed with 1-2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese with 1 cup diced peaches or pineapple
  • Vegetable and diced chicken breast on a flatout style wrap
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt topped with 1/4 cup granola and 3/4 cup berries

DO enjoy time with you friend and family. Make holiday times more about catching up with loved ones and put less focus on food. Plane a few non-food activities at your holiday parties such as board games, snowshoeing, movies, holiday crafts, decorating, sledding, family walks, etc.

Homemade Fruit Dip

6 oz. low-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter (32 g)
1.5 Tbsp. honey (32 g)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Homemade Pumpkin Fluff

1 large box sugar free vanilla pudding
1 container truwhip
2 tsp. Pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. Pure vanilla
1/2 cup milk or protein nut milk

Dill Dip

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white or black pepper
2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped