Nostalgia for the holidays often comes in the form of particularly festive tastes and smells. Aside from the anticipation of gifts and familial bonding, holiday foods are a major draw to the love for this season. It is likely that each family has their go-to holiday foods geared up and ready for when this time of year rolls around. Stuffed turkeys and pot roasts, fresh-baked cookies and pies, candied yams and buttery corn bread—they are some of the most delicious parts of our holiday season. However, they are also some of the worst foods for your waistline.
Holiday foods are notoriously loaded with refined sugars, saturated and trans-fats, and sodium. As delectable these foods are, the quick pleasure they leave on your lips is not worth the lasting pounds they can leave on your hips. Some of us are more vulnerable to gaining weight during our Thanksgiving and winter breaks than we were to gaining the “freshman 15.” The season is both a time of lazed hibernation and calorie-dense foods more decorated than your dorm room. It’s not the best combination for any health-conscious person, so it’s important to be aware of how you handle the temptation to overindulge.
Understandably, these unhealthy foods are sometimes impossible to avoid, as they can comprise a family’s entire holiday menu. In those cases, portion control is key if you want to keep your healthy lifestyle intact—a little indulgence here and there never hurt anybody. There are, however, healthier alternatives to most of your festive favorites. Here is a list of seasonal foods you should definitely try to avoid or minimize, and healthier ways to satisfy those holiday cravings:
Yams, also known as sweet potatoes, are a wonderful food. Add a few sticks of butter, brown sugar, and a layer of marshmallows, and this formerly nutritious vegetable becomes a dietary nightmare. Try to skip the candied version and see if there is an option sans the unhealthy additions. On their own, roasted sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and can help fill you up before you overindulge elsewhere in your celebration.
Mashed potatoes, although classically delicious, are loaded with all things saturated fat. In order to get the flavor we all love, this dish typically requires a lot of butter and added salt. Potatoes are already packed with carbs, so the added fat is a dangerous combination. It is best to ask for a baked potato instead, using low-sodium seasonings to liven it up.
What’s a holiday without the classic party dip? We all love to pair finger foods with some form of dip during celebrations, but dips can easily become a slippery slope. Creamy dressings and sour cream based dips are high in saturated fat and calories. The serving size for many of these dips are far less than what you may be tempted to mindlessly eat while making dinner conversation. The calories add up quickly. Avoid these and look for a yogurt-based or hummus dip, and try to reach for the veggie plate rather than chips. These small swaps will make the biggest difference.
Cookies and Pies
Holiday dinners never seem to be complete without freshly baked cookies or pies, or both. They are extremely delicious, but as with most scrumptious holiday foods, they are loaded with all kinds of naughty ingredients. The caloric content in most pies are through the roof, making them a sinful temptation. If you must have your pie, reach for the pumpkin over the pecan and avoid the crust completely. The crust usually contains the majority of the fat and skipping it will save you some calories. If you must have your cookies, self-control will be your savior. Practice portion control and stay mindful of your eating time. Not only will it help prevent you from reaching for more, you’ll also have a chance to savor each bite.
Last Words of Advice…
When attending these celebratory dinner parties, it’s important to maintain self-restraint. Many families won’t budge on their menu and have little interest in making healthier alternatives for you. If you want to avoid overdoing it, keep your cravings distracted. Chew gum after eating a plate and try to stay engaged in conversation with relatives you haven’t seen in a year. There are ways to prevent yourself from falling into the holiday trap, just remember to stay mindful. With the help of your willpower, you can make it through the season guilt-free.
By Melissa Espinal