The key is eating healthy throughout the holiday season and remembering portion control when it comes to your it-wouldn’t-be-Christmas-without-them foods. For the rest of the courses, all you have to do is make the right choices that will allow you to indulge and enjoy, yet keep you from loading up on the fatty, high-calories dishes that can quickly lead to unwanted weight gain.
Start with those holiday appetizers. With so much of the meal yet to come, why waste calories on dips made with full-fat sour cream? Substitute low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt or nonfat sour cream for regular sour cream in all of your recipes this season, and no one will be the wiser. To put it in perspective: An ounce of sour cream has about 60 calories. An ounce of nonfat plain Greek yogurt has only 15 to 20 calories, and an ounce of nonfat sour cream has about 25. The savings from even a few small scoops quickly add up.
The easiest way to cut unnecessary calories this season is to cut back on alcohol. For a portion-controlled alternative that will help you save calories, replace 2 ounces of wine with club soda. Since a 5-ounce glass of red or white wine has about 150 calories, and club soda has no calories, replacing just two ounces of the wine already saves you 60 calories toward another slice of pie. You’re still able to be festive and enjoy an adult beverage with your friends and family — just with a lot fewer calories.
Instead of serving candied yams, which have 215 calories per half-cup, try oven-roasted sweet potatoes at holiday meals. A 3/4-cup serving of sweet potatoes brushed with a little heart-healthy canola or olive oil is only 100 calories. Not only do you get more potatoes for fewer calories, but also you’ll also get a healthy helping of vitamins and nutrients from the potatoes, and a dose of monounsaturated fat from the oil. Try roasting over boiling the sweet potatoes because it brings out their natural sweetness and you don’t have to add as much to enhance them.
The dark meat in your turkey has about twice the fat of turkey breast and about 40 percent more calories. A 3.5-ounce portion of dark meat (about the size of a deck of cards) with the skin on has about 230 calories. The same amount of turkey breast without the skin is only about 160 calories, cutting about 70 calories as well as saturated fat — that’s eating healthy as long as you stick to portion control.
What would the holidays be without stuffing? But it doesn’t have to be the unhealthy store-bought stuffing that’s prepared with butter and cubes of white bread. For a healthy holiday, make your own stuffing. Simply sauté celery and onions and other cubed vegetables of your choosing (from carrots to water chestnuts) in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil. Combine the mixture with cubes of whole-grain bread, moisten with no- or low-sodium chicken broth, and add your favorite herbs before baking. This eating-healthy version has less fat, more fiber, and more flavor.
To make your green bean casserole a healthy holiday choice, instead of using full-fat cream of mushroom soup, use a reduced-fat version of the soup and you’ll save at least 40 calories per half-cup serving. Better yet, skip the soup and French-fried onions — just cut and steam fresh green beans and sprinkle them with slivered almonds before serving. Also, try this tip: eat your veggies first because they’re lower in calories. They will help fill you up, and you’ll want to eat less of the higher-calorie foods.
A glass of eggnog can easily have upwards of 250 calories, and more than half of your daily recommended dose of saturated fat. Swap eggnog for a glass of hot apple cider instead, and instantly save 100 to 150 calories and all the fat. If it’s just not a holiday without eggnog, make your own with egg substitute rather than eggs, fat-free milk in place of whole milk, and sugar substitute in place of sugar — you can still use vanilla and spices. Leave out the alcohol and you’ll save even more calories.
If you still want the real thing, practice portion control: Have just one serving, and then switch to something more diet friendly. Another trick to stay on track at parties year-round is to alternate between high-calorie beverages and club soda or a glass of water. If you limit yourself to every other drink, you will cut your calories in half no matter what the calories start off being.
It’s hard to resist holiday desserts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, but you can save about 200 calories by choosing pumpkin pie (300 calories a slice) over pecan pie (about 500 calories). Neither is exactly eating healthy, but with the pumpkin you’re getting lots of vitamin A, calcium, and iron. If you really want pecans, Moore suggests skipping the pie and eating a handful of pecans sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. In either case, another option is to skip the crust entirely — that’s where most of the fat lurks — and save another 100 or so calories.