Treats, sweets, high calorie foods… oh my. They’re everywhere during the holidays. The good news? With smart holiday menu planning, you can still enjoy a few treats, guilt-free. Here are 8 tips to help you stay on track this holiday season.
1. Stick to your calorie budget by tracking your food intake. There are hundreds of apps and online diet tracking tools available on your home computer, tablet or smartphone. Some popular apps reviewed by the American Dietetic Association include myfitnesspal or sparkpeople.com. Use technology to your advantage. If you are not sure where to begin, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at the Sanny and Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention and Genetics for a personalized plan using our online tracking program.
2. Include fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack. Try some new recipes, such as a mixed green salad with pomegranate seeds and warm vinaigrette dressing (get the recipe). Other festive-colored fruits and vegetables in season now include: cranberries, apples, pears, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. If you are going to a friend or family member’s house, offer to bring a fruit or vegetable dish.
3. Rework traditional recipes to include less fat and sugar. Instead of traditional green bean casserole, try Fresh Green Bean Casserole. Other smart substitutions include using nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream in dips, fruit purees instead of oils in baked goods, and reduced fat chicken broth instead of drippings to make gravy.
4. Don’t skip meals leading up to a party. This often causes overeating. Eat at regular meal times to fuel your body and prevent extreme hunger. If the holiday spread includes a buffet, it helps to survey the food choices before you start dishing up. Fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eat slowly and savor the flavors. You may find that you are satisfied with less.
5. Control grazing. Refrigerate leftovers promptly after the meal to eliminate the temptation of constant grazing. This also prevents foodborne illness by keeping foods at a safe temperature.
6. Don’t drink your calories. If you decide to consume the eggnog or alcohol, alternate with water to save calories. Lower calorie alternatives may be sparkling water with Crystal Light or flavored coffee. If you are out late shopping for last-minute gifts and looking for a caffeine pick-me-up, choose specialty coffee drinks made with fat free milk and sugar free flavoring to cut calories.
7. Be choosy about your treats instead of trying to avoid them completely. Make a plan to fit in a few treats during the holidays so you can enjoy them guilt-free. Plan to have other healthy foods available to provide nutrition when hunger strikes.
8. Move! So many times holiday events focus on the food and not the people. Plan an activity to involve the family, from ice skating to sledding to crafts. Burn a few calories instead of consuming more.
Jennifer Haugen has over 10 years of experience as a registered and licensed dietitian in the Grand Forks area with four years in the health and wellness field. She obtained the Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential in July 2011 and also has completed training in adult weight management. She lives in Thompson with her husband ( Zac), son (Henry) and new baby (Evelyn). Jennifer enjoys many outdoor activities such as ice skating, biking, running, fishing and hunting and spending time with her family.