Many of us celebrate the holidays with family and friends, and the festivities tend to be accompanied by food. Lots of it, much of it rich and far from heart-healthy. Moderation is key, say most experts. To that we add some strategies for reducing fat, sugar, and salt without sacrificing the tasty joys of the season.
For most people, holidays are a time of celebration with family and food. It can be difficult to resist tempting foods prepared with unhealthy fats, sodium and excess sugar. But you can still enjoy your favorite traditional foods by learning how to make them more heart-healthy and how to budget them into your holiday plans.
SecondsCount.org can show you small changes that will help you maintain a heart-healthy eating plan even during the holidays.
- Serve a selection of higher-fiber crackers with hummus, and raw vegetables with low-fat dressing for quick snacks or appetizers. These are great alternatives to a typical cheese platter or creamy dip that are full of saturated fat. A fancy bowl full of unsalted nuts has heart-healthy unsaturated fat and couldn't be simpler.
- Look for lean cuts of meat. The words "round," "loin" or "chuck" indicate the healthiest choices. The word "prime" in the name means high in fat. When using ground beef, use half ground sirloin and half ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast. Or better yet, try soy crumbles (found in frozen food section) in place of all the meat.
- Use fat-free evaporated milk to make creamy mashed potatoes. Use low-sodium chicken broth and roasted fresh garlic (or garlic powder) to give them a little more flavor.
- Make your stuffing heart healthy by using whole-wheat bread crumbs. Then mix in more celery and onion than called for in the recipe, along with dried cranberries, raisins and apricots instead of meat. Use less butter or margarine than called for to reduce the saturated fat. To obtain the correct moist consistency, use more water instead of broth to reduce the sodium.
- Skip store-bought gravy mixes or jars of gravy and make your own. Use low-sodium broth (or meat drippings with the fat removed), flour and skim milk to make a delicious, healthier gravy.
- Avoid pre-packaged cookies, cakes and pies because they are typically filled with trans and saturated fats. Make your own desserts. When making pumpkin pie, make it crustless, and reduce the amount of sugar by half and enhance "sweetness" by adding more vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Try a fruit crisp with a lower-fat oatmeal topping. When baking cakes or quick breads, cut the fat in half and replace it with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana. Serve a selection of fresh fruit along with a yogurt dip. Or Angel Food cake with fresh or frozen berries is a tasty alternative.
- Buy low-fat eggnog to cut down on calories and fat. Or instead of milk in your coffee or black tea, try adding a little low-fat eggnog for an "eggnog latte." Or better yet, try mulled apple cider or ginger tea.
Keep in mind that during the season of holiday eating, sometimes not gaining weight is as important as losing weight. To balance out what you eat, keep moving. Make a more conscious effort to be physically active during the holidays. This will make it easier to enjoy a few holiday treats without paying for it later with extra pounds to lose.
From the team at SecondsCount, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.