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Healthier Holiday Eating

For many of us, the special meals and treats we indulge in at festive parties and family gatherings during the holidays are part of what make the season our favorite time of year. If you have been following an overall healthy eating pattern, you don’t necessarily have to feel guilty about eating foods that boost your holiday mood. However, it's still wise to stay on track with your health goals.

The following three tips can help you stay on track, including ideas for healthy alternatives, reasons not to skip meals and ways to fit in fitness. Plus, check out a lighter pumpkin pie recipe at the end of this post.

1. Plan Ahead

If you are hosting family gatherings for the holidays, you have the most control over what is to be served. Try these suggestions for making healthier versions of crowd favorites:

Macaroni and Cheese

  • Use less butter.
  • Use reduced-fat cheese and use a smaller amount.
  • Use skim milk instead of cream.
  • Add vegetables, such as baby spinach, cauliflower, mushrooms or broccoli. 

Green bean casserole

  • Use non-fat or 2% milk and fresh mushrooms to create your own mushroom sauce. 

Salad 

  • Depending on the dressing you are using, it could significantly increase the amount of calories of your salad. 
  • Try to incorporate more herbs and spices for seasoning. They are delicious, and just a little big goes a long way. 
  • Cut back on the amount of dressing you use. Mix your dressing with some water or balsamic vinegar if it doesn’t cover the salad well. 

Fruit

  • Enjoy fruit as your dessert.
  • Place a fruit platter next to the main dessert as a healthy alternative or to accompany the dessert. 

2. Don’t Skip Meals

It might seem like cutting down the number of meals in a day would be a good way to control overall calorie consumption. However, it is not uncommon for us to see ourselves overeating later in the day. 

Instead of skipping a meal: 

  • Try to follow your usual eating pattern; aim for three meals a day.
  • Eat slowly, and put your fork down between bites.
  • Pay attention to your physical cue for hunger and fullness. Stop when you feel you have had enough to eat; you don’t have to eat everything on your plate. On the other hand, when you eat everything on your plate and you are still hungry, you may have more. 
  • Be mindful about portions; you may want to use the healthy plate method as a guideline. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with a protein-rich food and one quarter with carbohydrates.

3. Get Physical

  • Invite everyone at the gathering to go for a walk after dinner. 
  • Plan activities ahead of time, like playing card/board games or outdoor games like corn hole or ladder golf (weather permitting).

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Try this recipe, inspired by Eating Well, to make your own light and luscious pumpkin pie.   

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar 
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp canola oil

Filling

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
¾ cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼  tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt 

Directions

To prepare pastry, stir together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and milk all at once to the flour mixture. Stir lightly with a fork. Form into a ball.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a well-floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten the dough; roll from center to edge into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. To transfer the pastry, wrap it around the rolling pin. Unroll the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease the pastry into the pie plate, being careful not to stretch. Trim the pastry to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Fold under the extra pastry; flute or crimp edge as desired. Do not prick. Line the pastry with a double thickness of heavy foil. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake 5 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F.    

To prepare filling, combine pumpkin, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Beat lightly with a fork just until combined. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour the filling into the baked pastry shell. To prevent overbrowning, cover the edge of the pie with foil. Bake until the filling appears set, 40 to 45 minutes (the edges of the filling may crack slightly).

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours. If desired, serve with dessert topping.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 slice 
Per Serving: 187 calories; protein 5g; carbohydrates 29.2g; dietary fiber 1.8g; sugars 14.2g; fat 5.9g; saturated fat 0.6g; cholesterol 1.1mg; vitamin a iu 6852.9IU; vitamin c 2.1mg; folate 55.7mcg; calcium 81.3mg; iron 1.7mg; magnesium 20.4mg; potassium 197.6mg; sodium 107.7mg. 

Exchanges

1/2 starch, 1 1/2 other carb, 1 fat

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