Chris Zellers, MPP -Assistant Professor/Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences Department
Enjoying a favorite dish during the holidays is always something to anticipate with fond memories of years past. Many holiday dinners and side dishes are prepared with ingredients that should be eaten in moderation during the rest of the year. Instead of fretting about eating too much over the holidays try to keep portions in mind and remember its usually only one day. However, the average holiday dinner is 4,000 calories and 150 grams of fat which is twice the calories most Americans should consume in one day. Family traditions and cultures get passed down from generation to generation and are an important part of celebrating the holidays. Small changes to holiday meals could keep them tasty and make them healthier.
Holiday meals don’t have to be completely unhealthy. Try prioritizing favorites and decide in advance what favorites you would like to enjoy. Remember you don’t have to eat everything at one meal. Saving leftovers for after the holiday can ease the need to eat everything at one dinner. Chances are if you don’t over stuff yourself you will sleep better as your body digest the meal try eating for ten minutes then pausing before finishing the entire plate of food. Its easy to fill up on delicious rich appetizers before the meal is served. Choose raw vegetables and low-fat dip or hummus to munch on premeal. Pick a small appetizer plate and eat from that rather than munching from the bowl or dish. If you are hosting an event plan to have some lower calorie foods for guest to enjoy, and if you are a guest offer to bring something you like that is healthier. Healthy meals and appetizers don’t have to be tasteless making substitutions can still leave dishes tasty.
Making swaps for holiday meal traditions can be tasty and gradual, plan one thing per year to change. Gravy can be loaded with fat and doesn’t have much nutritional value but adding cranberry sauce to the top of turkey to moisten it. Try to fill up on roasted or steamed vegetables that are low in calories, fat and sodium and provide nutrients. When baking substitute cocoa in recipes that call for chocolate. The substitution for cocoa is 3 tablespoons for every one ounce of chocolate in many recipes. When prepping dips use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream to cut down on fat and add protein. Replacing butter in recipes with low sodium broth or stock will moisten the dish and remove fat. Using low fat cheese can cut the fat of side dishes up to 36 grams and 320 calories for every 8 ounces. Use evaporated milk to replace cream in baking recipes and applesauce for oil. Consider using herbs as a change for adding salt to dishes and to cut sodium content in meals. Look at holiday recipes before shopping and see if there might be healthy substitutions to keep the taste and tradition in the meal.
My Plate recipe: Chickpea Dip https://www.myplate.gov/recipes/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/chickpea-dip
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup yogurt (plain, low-fat)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 can chickpeas (19oz, drained garbanzo beans)
1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Serve at room temperature with pita chips, crackers, carrots, or other dipping vegetables.