We can’t deny it now.. the holidays are here. A very enjoyable time for some, but a very stressful time for others. If you are on a journey to better health and wellness, the thought of holiday food may fill you with anxiety. However, just swapping out a few ingredients can significantly cut the amount of calories, sugar, and trans fats you’ll be consuming without completely ruining the taste.
Here are a few swaps to some popular holiday dishes:
Sour Cream -> Plain Greek Yogurt
It’s easy to go overboard on appetizer dips. Why consume so many calories before the big meal? An ounce of sour cream has about 60 calories, whereas an ounce of nonfat plain Greek yogurt has about 20 calories. Greek yogurt has a similar texture to sour cream, and the taste difference is minuscule (if not non-existent.. depending on the dip). If you’re more weary of sugar content than calorie count, opt for full-fat Greek yogurt. Nonfat yogurts are pumped with extra sugar to replace the fat that’s been taken out.. because fat makes food taste good. Personally, I am an advocate for eating fat (non-trans!), so I always buy full-fat Greek yogurt. Don’t worry, I will post more about my take on fat and sugar in a post soon to come…
Regular Broth -> Low-Sodium Broth
Especially if you’re making a soup that includes meats like ham, bacon, or sausage. Odds are those ingredients already contain enough sodium to give the dish enough flavor. High-sodium foods cause water retention, which means your body holds on to more water that it would otherwise excrete out.. which means you’ll bloat. Sexy, right? Nah.. opt for the low-sodium stuff.
Store-Bought Stuffing -> Homemade Stuffing
Store-bought (box) stuffing is filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup (aka SUGAR!) and trans fats. You can easily make a healthier (and tastier) version on your own. Here’s a good slow-cooker stuffing recipe: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/260749/slow-cooker-sausage-apple-stuffing/
Veggie Casserole -> Fresh Veggies
This one is pretty straight forward. Skip the cheese and heavy creams. Cook some fresh veggies with a healthy oil (stay away from Canola!!!!!) and flavor them up with your favorite spices/seasonings. Another tip? Eat your veggies FIRST. This will fill you up sooner, making it harder for you to binge on the other stuff.
Candied Yams -> Roasted Sweet Potatoes
A half-cup serving of candied yams runs over 200 calories.. and a half-cup is not much. A 3/4-cup serving of roasted sweet potatoes, brushed with some olive oil, is roughly 100 calories (plus you get some healthy fat with them as well). If you roast sweet potatoes instead of boil them, the potatoes will maintain more of their natural sweetness so you won’t feel like you have to add much to them. More potatoes for less calories? Yes, please!
Cranberry Sauce -> Cranberry Relish
Store-bought cranberry sauce is LOADED with added sugar. Mash up some cranberries for a good cranberry relish. If you substitute regular sugar for Stevia, then 1/3-cup of the relish will run you 25 calories, as opposed to cranberry sauce.. which will run you more than 100 calories for 1/4-cup.
Pecan Pie -> Pumpkin Pie
After filling up on appetizers and the main meal, the healthiest option is to skip dessert (you’re already full!). However.. c’mon, let’s be real.. you’ll still want to get your hands on some dessert.. it’s the holidays! So if you must splurge, here is a little tip. Pecan pie = around 500 calories per slice. Pumpkin pie = around 300 calories per slice. Also, pumpkin pie contains calcium, iron and Vitamin A.
More nutrients = always the better option. Plus, pumpkin pie is DA BOMB.. so.. it’s a win-win.
Need to have your pecans? Roast some pecans and dash some cinnamon and/or whatever else you want to spice them up with.
One more thing.. if you are trying to avoid fat, then stick with white meat over dark meat. I love dark meat, myself, but thought I would throw that in there. Like I said earlier, I’ll get into why I love fat so much in a future blog post.
The holidays don’t have to give you health-anxiety. Be mindful of your ingredients and portions. I don’t like counting calories. Eat if you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.. and drink plenty of H2O, especially if you’ll be consuming alcohol.