Hi, everyone! Happy Friday!
Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is just over a month away, which means there are plenty of parties, events, and holidays that feature lots of delicious food and sweets. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays, and I’m not one to deprive myself of my favorite holiday foods like pumpkin pie, stuffing, Christmas cookies, or mashed potatoes. However, it’s easy to over-indulge at all the events and parties in the time between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Eve and altogether neglect healthy eating during the holiday season.
These healthy holiday eating tips can be used year-round—during the holidays, while traveling, or whenever you need that extra help to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. I’m not a registered dietician, so these tips simply come from my own research and experience.
- Make some tasty vegetable dishes to add to your Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts. There are lots of great recipes for healthier and lighter versions of green bean casserole (I’ve made this one for going on three Thanksgivings now), roasted brussels sprouts, mashed cauliflower, and so on.
- Start the day healthy! It’s tempting to indulge in cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, or donuts, but a well-balanced breakfast helps you get nutrients in before a big feast and prevents a sugar crash that will only leave you hungrier later. Plus, you’ll feel less guilty about going for seconds at Thanksgiving if you had a healthy breakfast. Try oatmeal with fruit, eggs and toast, or yogurt bowls as healthy and filling breakfast options. If you want a bit of a treat for breakfast, choose a lightened-up version of breakfast such as these acorn squash pancakes.
- Opt for fruits and vegetables for snacks. Having an apple, banana, or carrot sticks is a way to check your calorie consumption, consume some filling fiber, and get those vitamins that helps support your immune system! If you need a bit more to hold you over, try adding a small portion of nut butter to your fruit or some hummus to your veggies to add in some heart-healthy fat.
- Get your greens! Adding your favorite green—spinach, argula, or kale—to a meal adds a lot of nutrients to your day, and the volume of a serving of greens creates a stronger sense of satiety. It’s easy to add a quick salad to a meal, toss some greens into your pasta, or serve your meat on top of a bed of greens.
- Have quick, go-to meals. No one wants to slave away in the kitchen during the busy holiday season or when they return from a weekend away with family. Have staples in your pantry, fridge, and freezer so you can have quick and healthy meals. We like to keep pre-cooked brown rice packets and beans in our pantry. Then we add any fresh or frozen vegetables we have on hand. This meal comes together in ten minutes and is as delicious as it is nutritious! Meals that cook all at once in the oven are great also, such as roasted sweet potatoes with steak or roasted cauliflower with chicken. These take only about 45 minutes of mostly hands-off time.
- Prepare for the week. One of our favorite things to do for dinner is to buy a whole chicken and roast it or butcher it into smaller pieces. This provides enough healthy protein for the whole week, and it’s easy to make into salads, healthy sandwiches, or other nutritious meals. It saves time, money, and removes the guesswork from cooking.
- Don’t skip meals. You may try to “save” calories for a big meal or party by skipping breakfast or lunch, but this will only leave you ravenous and likely to over-indulge later. Instead, eat well-portioned and nutritious meals so that you can reasonably indulge later.
- Modify your desserts. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you don’t want to cut out desserts ever, much less this time of year. Use some smart substitutions like unsweetened applesauce, Greek yogurt, or whole wheat flour to create healthy versions of your favorite cookies, brownies, and cupcakes. To maintain flavor, substitute out only half of the butter and oil. For both health and taste reasons, use real sugar, not fake sugars like Splenda.
Most of all, enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas! Those two days are about celebrating, not guilt. While eating healthy is important, these holidays are about Christ, family, friends, gratitude, and joy.
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