It’s so easy to over indulge during the holidays. At work it can seem like an endless parade of well-meaning coworkers offering cookies, candies, and maybe even slices of last night’s casserole. At home, you face cabinets laden with high-calorie impulse purchases even as you prepare Grandma’s favorite recipe which no doubt calls for lots of butter and sugar. Then there are the festive gatherings where a cup or two of cheer leads inevitably to the feeling that you’ve completely blown your diet. It’s no wonder that many people gain close to a pound over the holidays. Even worse, that seasonal weight gain usually sticks around like ill-planned credit card debt. Fortunately, there are some awesome hacks to help you cut calorie consumption dramatically. Here are some healthy alternatives so you can start your healthy habits on New Year’s Eve and keep them throughout the New Year!
In the Kitchen
Traditional holiday recipes often call for butter, cream, and lots of sugar. These old-fashioned treats were fine when people were laboring in fields and preparing meals over an open fire. Today we need leaner options. You don’t have to give seasonal dishes up completely. Instead, New York-based Amie Valpone, a culinary nutritionist, recommends swapping coconut milk for heavy cream. The switch delivers a similarly creamy taste with half the calories. Valpone also suggests using a high-speed blender to combine two egg whites with four tablespoons of sugar for a fat-free meringue rather than a high sugar frosting.
You can also whip up a healthy, homemade salad dressing using a blend of olive or canola oils with lemon juice, garlic, and a splash of vinegar. This delivers healthy fats and antioxidants rather than the unhealthy fats and sugars found in most store-bought dressings. Another healthy fat is found in avocados which you can choose over mayo or cheese on sandwiches.
Traditional eggnog delivers some 21 grams of sugar, 19 grams of fat, and a whopping 350 calories in just a single cup–and that’s before adding booze. Mix in a generous swigger of rum, brandy, or whiskey, and you could be holding close to 500 calories in your hands. Worse, many people can’t stop with just one. If you’re making eggnog at home, there are a host of healthy alternatives to the traditional recipe. Just swapping out the cream for non-fat milk will cut the calories in half. Plus you can experiment with non-traditional additions like pumpkin or gingerbread. If you’re out and about, trading an eggnog for a glass of red wine will cut your consumption of calories and deliver heart-healthy antioxidants called resveratrol. Champagne or sparkling wine is way lower in calories than eggnog, and the bubbles usually slow down most drinkers. Of course, alcohol isn’t the only calorie threat when you leave the confines of your home.
On the Town
Whether at the office or gathering with friends, there are plenty of lower calorie alternatives to enjoy. Try popping a few frozen grapes in your cubicle rather than sweets. Travel with carrots. Always drink water along with other beverages –– this can reduce overindulgences. You can also make a great, healthy yogurt-based dip and bring it as an option.
Of course sometimes you’re confronted with a host of not-so-great choices. If it’s between a selection of pies, pumpkin wins out over pecan when it comes to calories (individual tastes may vary.) Sweet potatoes are better than candied yams; white meat from a turkey is lower in fat and calories than dark meat.
Unfortunately, for many of us gathering with family or getting together for an office party brings with it a fair amount of anxiety. Even extroverts are discovering that after 2020’s lockdowns, crowds make them uncomfortable. This can lead to unwelcome overconsumption of alcohol and stress eating. Coping strategies include taking the time to chew your food thoroughly along with breathing exercises. However, prevention can be the best medicine. Before you leave your house, have a healthy snack or meal like lean chicken or turkey on whole-grain bread. Arrive at your host’s home moderately full rather than starving. This strategy will help ensure that the indulgences you enjoy are savored. And don’t forget to bring water!
John Bankston is a published author of over 150 nonfiction books for children and young adults including biographies of Jonas Salk, Gerhard Domak, and Frederick Banting.