Ready for Christmas dinner? Hopefully, you’re feeling the holiday cheer and excited to spend some quality time with your family this week!
Still, if you’re in the middle of your weight loss journey, all of the holiday indulgences may seem more intimidating than inviting. Don’t stress!
Here are 10 tips to navigate your holiday parties with ease, plus some delicious recipe swaps for your dinner table.
Whether you’re hosting or just bringing a side, everyone will love these healthy Christmas recipes!
Tips for a Healthier Holiday
Holidays should be fun, but don’t let the festive spirit get the best of your diet! Instead, follow these 10 easy tips to celebrate in style while still staying true to your healthy lifestyle:
1. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water (and other calorie-free, caffeine-free beverages) supports weight loss. If you fill up on zero-calorie fluids, there’s not as much room in your stomach for calorie-laden foods.
So, make an effort to sip on water or unsweetened tea constantly. Fat-free milk is also a great option for hydration when consumed in moderation.
2. Don’t Snack Mindlessly
Christmas parties are full of delicious appetizers, savory snacks, and delicious desserts. So, it’s easy to walk into the room and accidentally eat hundreds of calories without realizing it.
Instead, consciously decide to eat if you’re hungry or stick to calorie-free beverages if you’re not.
3. Take Care with Toppings
Sauces, crumbles, frostings, and spreads are the hidden culprits of holiday meals.
These toppings add lots of flavors, but they can also add tons of extra calories, fat, sugar, and sodium to an otherwise-healthy plate.
Choose wisely by minimizing your helpings of fatty spreads (like butter or cheese), gravy, and frosting. Instead, go for small portions of jam or a light dusting of powdered sugar on your favorite treats.
4. Load Up on Veggies
Not all holiday meals are unhealthy; this year, follow the MyPlate guidelines when serving your dinner plate.
Fill half your plate with green salad and veggies, a quarter of the plate with protein, and a quarter of the plate with grains or starchy vegetables.
For example, a healthy Christmas dinner plate might include a quarter plate of green salad, a quarter plate of steamed green beans with almonds, a quarter plate of turkey (breast meat), and a dinner roll.
Avoid the classic trap of loading up on meat and potatoes without leaving any room for nutritious (and low-calorie) veggies.
5. Skip the Boring Sides
Life is all about choices… and so is your holiday meal.
If you say no to every special dish, you’ll feel deprived and cheated out of the holiday cheer. Instead, choose one or two of your favorite flavors and wholeheartedly enjoy those, and then pass on the rest.
Chances are you don’t really savor every single dish on the table, so instead, save your calories and truly enjoy the appetizers, sides, or desserts that matter most to you.
6. Favor Fiber
Fiber and weight loss go together like peas and carrots.
Fiber helps fill you up, keep you regular, and control your blood sugar. So, munch on foods that contain lots of natural fiber this holiday season.
Go for whole grain rolls, steamed vegetables, whole fruit, oatmeal cookies, and beans when you have the chance.
7. Forget the “Clean Plate Club”
Lots of us were raised in the ‘clean plate club’ with parents constantly reminding us, “you serve it, you eat it.”
This is a great sentiment for reducing food waste, especially with young children, but it’s not so great for weight loss.
Instead of clearing your plate on autopilot, make an effort to listen to your body’s hunger cues.
Experts recommend that you only eat until you’re 80% full and then let your brain catch up with your stomach. If this means leaving some food on your plate, that’s okay!
Either share your extras with a friend/family member or put them away to eat later. No need to stuff yourself with those extra ten bites.
8. Only One Sweet
This one relates closely to #5, but here we’re talking about sugar specifically.
More and more research is emerging about the damaging effects of sugar on health, plus we already know that too much sugar leads to extra weight. So, choose your sweets wisely this holiday season.
Pick one sweet per day to indulge in, and then save any others for another day.
Whether it’s candy from your stocking, cookies at the Christmas party, a slice of pie after dinner, or your favorite hot chocolate – enjoy your treat, but limit it to one per day.
9. Pass on Alcohol
This year, you have an extra reason to skip the boozy drinks. Alcohol is loaded with calories that can’t be used for anything productive in your body.
Instead, enjoy a festive, alcohol-free drink like sugar-free hot chocolate or the almond steamers below!
10. Keep Moving
Lastly, don’t let the cold weather and festive atmosphere keep you from exercising! Make it a point to include some fun physical activity in your holiday routine this year.
Whether it’s a walk through the neighborhood, ice skating, a Santa-themed 5K, or sledding, it all counts as exercise, and it all helps you reach your weight loss goals this holiday season.
Healthy Christmas Recipe Ideas
Holiday celebrations are centered around festive food and drink, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your healthy habits!
If you’re in the mood to swap out a few of your family’s less healthy classics, check out the healthy Christmas recipe ideas below!
Traditional: Eggnog — Healthier: Almond Steamer
Did you know that the average cup (8 ounces) of eggnog has 343 calories, 19 grams of fat, and over 21 grams of sugar?
That’s more calories and fat than a Mcdonald’s cheeseburger. Instead, try an almond steamer this holiday season!
Healthy Christmas Recipe: Pour 8oz of skim milk into a microwave-safe mug and heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar-free almond syrup. Stir well, and serve immediately.
If you’re not a fan of almonds, steamers are also delicious with vanilla, hazelnut, or most other flavors of coffee-flavoring syrup! Soy or almond milk works great in this recipe too.
Nutrition: 90 calories, < 1 gram of fat, 12 grams of carbs
Pro Tip: If you love eggnog and just aren’t quite ready to give it up, search for a low-fat/non-fat version at your local supermarket. Or, if you’re a guest, cut your cup of traditional eggnog by mixing half eggnog and half skim milk. This dramatically reduces the number of calories, fat, and sugar in your holiday drink.
Traditional: Mashed Potatoes & Gravy — Healthier: Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary
Mashed potatoes and gravy are a staple on almost every family’s holiday table. One cup of mashed potatoes plus a quarter cup of brown gravy can pack over 350 calories and 15 grams of fat.
More worrisomely, traditional gravy is very high in sodium (think almost 500mg per serving).
So, unless you’ve made a healthier gravy yourself, take it easy on this condiment to avoid unwanted bloating.
If you’re hosting, go a step further and think about swapping traditional mashed potatoes and gravy for roasted potatoes with rosemary this year!
Healthy Christmas Recipe: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Wash and quarter about a pound of red potatoes. Toss them in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, and 4 teaspoons of dried rosemary.
Add black pepper to taste. Once well mixed, dump potatoes onto an ungreased cookie sheet and distribute evenly.
Put in the oven and bake for 60-80 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked on the inside and crisp on the outside. Makes four small servings.
Nutrition: 131 calories, 6 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbs
Pro Tip: Remember to shake and flip the potatoes a couple of times while they’re roasting in the oven to promote even browning and prevent sticking.
Traditional: Pecan Pie — Healthier: Pumpkin Pie
Pecan pie is a tasty dessert – both for Thanksgiving and Christmas – but it’s also loaded with calories and sugar.
One slice (1/8th) of a pie has an average of 503 calories, 27 grams of fat, and 64 grams of carbs (32 grams of which are sugar).
That’s more calories than your turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy combined!
Even more, a reason to fill up on veggies at dinner and take it easy with dessert later on. Or, eat a vegetable-based dessert and make a pumpkin pie this year!
Healthy Christmas Recipe: Libby’s® Famous Pumpkin Pie by Nestle Toll House, as published online by All Recipes
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Combine 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves in a small bowl.
Beat 2 eggs lightly in a large bowl. Stir in 1 (15-ounce) can of pure pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in 1 (12 fluid ounce) can of evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Nutrition: 283 calories, 12 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbs
Pro Tip: Don’t freeze the extra pumpkin pie – it will separate from the crust. Instead, refrigerate leftovers and eat them within a week.
Are you ready for your holiday celebration this year? Do you go all out or try to make some healthy substitutions? Let us know in the comments section below!