Healthy Holiday Menu Makeover

Posted by: BeneFIT Corporate Wellness
Date: December 11, 2012

The holidays are a time for traditions, and for most of us, many of those traditions involve our favorite comfort foods. While this may not be the easiest time to take on a strict diet, this is a great time to be mindful of what you eat and introduce healthy habits to carry throughout the New Year. If you are hosting dinner this year, or plan to take a dish to the celebration, you have an opportunity to bring health to the table this holiday season.

To combat unwelcome holiday weight gain, the National Institutes of Health recommend an approach to healthy eating called the DASH Diet. DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to provide heart-healthy guidelines limiting salt or sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat. DASH focuses on increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat milk products and encourages incorporating whole grain products, fish, poultry and nuts into your diet.

As you’re reviewing your family’s favorite dishes and hand-me-down recipes, consider making some DASH-inspired modifications. We’ve rounded up these healthy twists on popular holiday dishes to get you started:

TURKEY

  • Opt for roasted turkey breast without the skin to cut out a significant dose of saturated fat.

BRISKET

  • Brisket is inherently fatty, but you can call ahead to your supermarket to ensure you get the flat “first-cut” section, which is healthier than the fattier “point cut.”

GRAVY

  • Refrigerate the juices to harden the fat. Then skim the fat off the top to literally cut some calories from your gravy.

MASHED POTATOES OR POTATO LATKES

  • Bypass some carbs by going the healthy route: try mashed cauliflower or cauliflower latkes as a change of pace at this year’s festivities.

DESSERTS

  • Consider a crustless pie.
  • Replace each whole egg with two egg whites when baking.
  • Reach for the evaporated skim milk instead of heavy cream for cream pies and cheesecakes.
  • Frost your cakes with fresh fruit or a festive dash of powdered sugar instead of icing.

Once your menu is in order, round off your calorie-conscious table with these healthy hosting tips:

  • Serve water with dinner instead of soda or other sweetened beverages.
  • Choose whole grain rolls for the bread basket to offer guests added nutrients, such as minerals and fiber.
  • When shopping, read the Nutrition Facts label and choose items lowest in salt or sodium.
  • Stock your fridge with fat-free or low-fat milk and offer as an alternative to whole milk or cream.
  • After everyone has awoken from their post-dinner nap, rally your guests for a fun outdoor activity to help burn calories. Try a simple 15-minute walk, a quick round of touch football or a friendly snowball fight.

It’s not easy breaking the cycle of a food-focused, sedentary holiday. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying sweets in moderation. Take a moment to savor your grandma’s famous fruitcake if it just wouldn’t be the holiday without it. But don’t forget: it’s never too late to start a new tradition. And who knows? Your crustless pie or after-dinner cardio may just be one for the ages.

To adopt more healthy eating habits, check out our Nutrition resources. Follow us on Facebook to receive regular health tips to keep your personal wellness top of mind. Happy holidays from everyone at BeneFIT Corporate Wellness!

The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.