Try these simple swaps to save calories, boost your fiber intake and make your holiday meals all-around healthier for your heart.
While counting your blessings during the holidays can be great for your health, the average holiday meal isn’t. A typical meal of turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing and pecan pie with whipped cream, plus all those delicious little nibbly apps and second (or third helpings), tops the caloric chart at 4,000 calories, reports the Calorie Control Council. That’s more than twice the recommended daily calorie intake for most of us!
Instead of: Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Serve: Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This year, don’t just open a can of cranberry sauce and plop it wiggling onto a plate to the tune of 110 calories per serving; make your own with fresh cranberries. It’s simple: Mix together 12 ounces fresh cranberries, 2 tablespoons water, ¾ cup sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and lemon or orange zest to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the cranberries start to burst. With the addition of the cinnamon and the citrus zest, you’ll never miss the extra sugar.
Instead of: Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing
Take a pass on all the heart-unhealthy saturated fat that sausage contains and opt for this higher-fiber, ultra-flavorful twist on the traditional stuffing. Prosciutto and hazelnuts have a strong flavor profile, so you can get away with using small amounts of the two higher-fat ingredients. The pears add a nice punch of fiber to your meal.
Instead of: Cheese Dip
Serve: Cheese and Crackers
Those tasty-looking dips and spreads are so easy to pop in your mouth on a chip or pretzel as you mindlessly munch away while waiting for the main course to be served that the number of calories in them can quickly add up. But you don’t have to deprive yourself or your guests. Simply trade those sour cream- and mayo-based dishes for the real thing: slices of brie or goat cheese served with whole-grain crackers.
Instead of: Candied Sweet Potatoes
Serve: Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are delicious on their own. Simply peel, cut up into chunks, drizzle with olive oil and roast until they’re crispy and brown. You’ll save about 60 calories per serving, and no one will miss those marshmallows, anyway. Trust.
Instead of: Pecan Pie
Serve: Pumpkin Pie
Pecan pie isn’t just loaded with fat (albeit healthier mono and polyunsaturated ones); it has a hefty amount of calories from sugar and/or corn syrup. Trade it in for an equally tasty and delicious pumpkin pie to cut calories and amp up your vitamin intake (pumpkin contains vitamins A, B12, C, E and D). But you still need to go easy on the whipped cream!
If these don’t work for you, try your favorite vegetable dish that you might make as a side for any regular potluck — with all the meaty, sugary dishes that are sure to be there, your more health-conscious friends and family will thank you.
“When invited to a gathering and suspect there will be ‘naughty’ food choices on the menu, I recommend volunteering to bring a green veggie dish that’s full of ‘nice’ ingredients like olive oil, lemon, garlic, herbs and spices,” said Chelsea Marquez, MS, RDN, bariatric dietician at Keck Medicine of USC. “Some of my go-to’s are: roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts, a big green salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing, and pretty much any green leafy vegetable sautéed with lots of garlic and olive oil.
“Don’t worry if it’s not a traditional holiday food – if it tastes good, people will love it. You’ll also ensure your own satisfaction while sharing you’re healthy food choice with others.”
By Anne Fritz
If you are in the Los Angeles area and would like to achieve successful, long-term weight loss, be sure to schedule an appointment with one of our weight loss surgeons or primary-care physicians by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.