Holiday feasting can be healthy

By Claire Kjeld

For The Courier-Herald

The holiday season is upon us and the anticipation for great food, family fun and feared weight gain is right there with it. Although weight gain may be small, Americans just aren’t losing the weight after the holidays are over. Here are some tips to help you and your family enjoy the holidays in a healthy way:

1 – Plan ahead. If you and your family will be spending more time around the house during the holidays, develop a family meal plan, keeping ingredients on hand and limiting restaurant eating. That will keep trips to the grocery store to a minimum. Involve everyone in the menu planning process. Ask one or more family members to look up fun recipes to try. Provide key ingredients that you have on hand to inspire the recipe search. Below are some great Web sites to check out for healthy family recipes.





2 – Make family meals fun. Try a theme night like a backward dinner (dessert first) or breakfast for dinner. Be creative. Cook and eat together while listening to some good music. Try lighting some candles to make dinner special. Come up with fun ideas for how you can make family meals enjoyable for everyone over the holidays.

3 – Keep holiday treats out of sight and put healthy alternatives front and center. If cookies and dessert squares are left on the counters, more of them likely will get eaten. Store holiday treats in the freezer to be enjoyed in moderation during the holidays and beyond. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

4 РRethink your drink. Most of us don’t adjust the amount of food we eat when we drink more calorie-containing beverages. Below is a list of traditional holiday fare and a couple of beverage alternatives to add to your refrigerator and holiday parties this holiday season.

Remember that five ounces of wine has between 100 and 120 calories; a 12-ounce beer can have anywhere from 70 to 175 calories; an ounce of hard liquor has 70 calories; 12 ounces of pop can have up to 150 calories; four ounces of egg nog has 140 to 180 calories; and eight ounces of punch has between 100 and 120 calories.

Here are healthier alternatives.

Calorie-free Punch (makes 16 one-cup servings)

1 container Crystal Light flavoring mix (makes 2 quarts)

1 Liter Fresca soda, chilled

Cranberries, strawberries or oranges for garnish


Prepare Sugar Free Crystal Light according to their directions; chill.

Pour Crystal Light and Fresca in to a punch bowl.

Add ice and garnish with fruit.

Low Fat Egg Nog Shakes ( makes four half-cup servings)
1 and 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon fat-free whipped topping
1/2 teaspoon of sweetener
1/8 teaspoon rum extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a blender.

Blend until smooth.

Pour into glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Serve and enjoy!

5 – Enjoy Healthier Holiday Parties

Holiday parties can be a challenge when you are trying to watch your waist line. During the holidays, when it’s up to you to host a party, plan your menu using a combination of traditional favorites and healthier alternatives. Search online for “healthy holiday recipes” or make healthy substitutions to common recipes. Below are a few substitution ideas:

Use vegetable or chicken stock to baste your turkey

Use stock to sauté your veggies instead of butter or oil

Use fat-free or evaporated skim milk in your holiday pies, and use light whipped topping instead of ice cream

Use nonfat milk and stock instead of cream in mashed potatoes

Whenever a recipe calls for full-fat items (cream cheese for example), substitute for lower fat alternatives.

Season savory dishes with herbs and low-sodium seasonings instead of butter and salt

If others wish to help out with the meal, suggest a healthier side such as whole grain bread, veggies with hummus, a mandarin orange salad or send them healthy recipes you have chosen. Consider non-food items for others to bring such as holiday music, candles, games, or puzzles.

When a party is hosted by someone else, make sure your family eats a light snack ahead of time to prevent overindulging on the holiday food when you arrive. If you find it hard to stop eating, regardless of how full you are, chew some gum or pop some breath mints once you start feeling comfortably full. If asked to bring a dish, make it a healthy one.

6 – Choose your favorites. Savor foods that are your favorites at holiday parties and leave out the foods that you can enjoy any other time of the year.

7 – Focus on your family. Learn to take pleasure in your holiday experience by focusing on time spent with your family and friends. Concentrate on the company and festive environment around you. The holidays are a time of great food but they are also a time of fun activities and closeness among family and friends.

Healthy Holiday Wishes!

Claire Kjeld is a registered dietitian with MultiCare Center For Healthy Living.

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