When the holiday season is upon us, and it’s time for family, Donny Hathaway Christmas songs, parties and holiday movies, we get excited. Yay! But wait…it’s also the season for jeans that suddenly don’t button, and faces that grow rounder by the day, and a scale that says 5 pounds gained since Tuesday. Boo! It doesn’t have to be that way. There are things that you can do (like healthy eating) that can help you make it through the season so that the only extra things you’re hauling around are presents. Check out below for some tips for healthy holiday cooking and eating.
You can’t get away from using oil and butters in all of your recipes, but you can certainly cut down on the amount of oil that you use, as well as the type. Spray your cake and muffin pans with non-stick spray instead of oiling them. You’d be amazed at how much fat and calories you consume when you “grease” a pan. And if you’re worried that you’ll miss the magical taste of butter if you don’t butter the muffin tin, you can choose flavored cooking sprays. Cooking sprays come in flavors like olive oil and butter, so you get the flavor without the pain. Where applicable, you could also just use parchment paper laid out on baking trays instead of using any oil at all.
Another really neat fat saving trick is to replace a portion of the oil called for in a recipe with applesauce. This tip works best with “cake-y” recipes like cake or muffins. If you’re making a cake and it calls for 1 cup of oil, use a half-cup of oil and a half-cup of applesauce instead. If you’re making a cookie recipe that calls for a cup of butter, one trick a lot of cooks use is to halve the amount of butter to ½ cup. People report that the cookies that are just as delicious, and a bit chewier.
When a recipe calls for milk, cheese, or other dairy products, use lower or no-fat versions instead of full-fat. With certain recipes, you won’t even taste difference. Did you know that evaporated skim milk is lower in fat than whole milk? If a recipe calls for whole milk, use evaporated skim instead. You’ll get rich texture and flavor without all of the fat.
You may be saying, “Well, how bad can vegetables be? They’re vegetables, right?” Well, remember how Auntie adds pork fat or (and?!) bacon to the greens? And how Grandma drenches the corn on the cob or the green beans with butter? And how you add butter, and marshmallows and brown sugar or syrup to the yams in order to make them “candied?” Exactly. On their own, buttery or sautéed vegetables may not be the best things in the world, but they’re not deadly. But throw in the turkey stuffed with rich, buttery stuffing, and the artery clogging cakes and pies and cookies and cheeses and stuffed sausages and oatmeal chocolate chip jelly pig fat cookies – you get the point. You’re starting to see how those pounds “just appear”, huh? Focus on spices vs. fats when seasoning your veggies. If you’re going to sauté vegetables, bring out that handy dandy non-stick spray again. You could also you chicken broth instead of oil to sauté vegetables. Add some of your favorite spices to give it a kick.
Set out delicious fruit plates. Cut them into pretty shapes and serve them in attractive dishware. People respond to “pretty” food, and will eat anything if it’s laid out nicely! Serve freshly cut vegetables, and have different types of nutritious, delicious hummus set aside for dipping.
There is no one that will tell you to give up desserts at holidays. Desserts are a huge part of what make the season so amazing. But consuming too much of anything is a bad thing.
First of all, if you know you’re going to be parked at the dessert table, modify the rest of your menu. Load up on the lighter foods like your sautéed vegetables, and salads. Filling up on fiber-rich veggies fills your tummy faster than you’d imagine. That’s not saying that you should have green beans as your Thanksgiving meal. That’s saying have green beans and the like first. Your tummy will feel more full, and you’ll eat less of the “bad” food later. Plus you’ll be getting invaluable nutrients.
When making your pies, use graham cracker crusts instead of pie dough made with tons of butter. Graham cracker crusts are incredibly yummy and don’t carry nearly as much fat.
You can even do away with the crust all together and focus on making things like rich delicious low-fat mousses and custards. There are tons of recipes online, so start searching. One incredibly delicious, low fat and nutritious treat is frozen banana ice cream! Take ripe bananas, cut them into slices, freeze them, blend them, and voila! You’ll be left with a decadent, rich, ice cream that you have to taste to believe. If you love banana pudding, just replace all the ingredients with low fat ones (low fat pudding, low fat wafers, etc.). You won’t even be able to tell the difference.
Baste your turkey with chicken broth instead of butter. Spice it up with things like jerk spices or turmeric, or whatever your favorite spices are.
Buttery and oil-based sauces can turn your main dish from a delicious, nutritious protein into a spare tire builder. Cut down on the amount of sauces, creams and gravies that you use on your main dish. Try using a spoonful of gravy vs. allowing the main dish to drown in it. It may not seem like a lot, but a spoonful of gravy can have as much as 100 calories or more, and tons of fat. You haven’t even taken bite of the meat, and you’re already down hundreds of calories. Cranberry sauce is low fat and has tons of anti-oxidants, and is a delicious alternative to gravy.
Wine and cocktails can be a lot of fun, but they can also cause a lot of problems for your waistline (not to mention your lucidity). One trick to cut down on the amount of alcohol you ingest is to have a full glass of water before each alcoholic drink. You’ll find that you won’t drink as much. Add fresh fruit juice and seltzer water to your vodka to cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume per glass.
Finally, eat prior to your big meals. If you starve yourself prior to a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you will vacuum the table with your mouth. Have fresh fruit, veggies, fiber and plenty of water prior to your meal. You’ll feel more full, and will eat less.