The holidays bring many of us joy each year. Festive lights, music, reconnecting with loved ones and making family recipes are enjoyed by many. While the holidays present opportunities to throw healthy eating habits out the window, it’s important to remember that having a healthier holiday will most likely result in a better mood, more energy and overall better health.
During the current holiday season, large gatherings are still discouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, for those cooking for the ones inside their household, there are still a few USDA tips to help make these celebrations healthier.
“There are plenty of ways to make healthy choices during the holidays,” said Katie Funderburk, an Alabama Extension specialist and registered dietitian. “You don’t have to avoid your favorite holiday treats or traditional foods and beverages that are meaningful to you. Just find those areas where the healthier choice works for you and decide in advance how you plan to make your holiday a little healthier”.
Starting with the appetizers, try using whole-grain crackers with hummus as a snack, or add unsalted nuts and black beans to a green-leaf salad. Live Well Alabama, a SNAP-Ed initiative developed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University, has a spinach dip recipe that pairs well with carrots, celery or bell peppers for a tasty snack to enjoy during holiday traditions.
Any holiday meal doesn’t seem to be complete without a protein centerpiece. Turkey, roast beef or a fresh ham are lean protein choices. Other options for the holidays could include fish, such as cod or flounder, for something out of the ordinary. Be sure to trim the fat when cooking the meats. Also, watch the amount of gravy or additional sauces, as they tend to be high in saturated fat and sodium.
Baking recipes handed down through many generations is a part of the holidays for many families. Many of these recipes seem to find their way onto the dinner table after finishing the main meal. While these desserts are most likely delicious, some other options may leave people feeling better after it’s all gone.
What people choose to drink with their healthy menus during the holidays is just as important. Ditch the sugary drinks or alcohol and turn to other low-calorie options.
“For some of us, warm apple cider, egg nog or hot cocoa may be a holiday treat we look forward to enjoying,” Funderburk said. “If this is you, limit the amount of additional sugar you drink by choosing a glass of water with your meal instead of sweet tea, fruit punch or soda.”
Try drinking water with lemon or lime added or a flavored sparkling water with low or no sugar over ice. For those that don’t like the flavor, add just a splash of 100 percent fruit juice to add a hint of sweetness. As long as people add just a small amount, they will still be drinking much less added sugar than a canned or bottled soda. People can also enjoy a glass of unsweet tea with a lot of lemons and fresh mint.
Between shopping, working and quality time with the family, many people seem to have more engagements during the holiday season. However, exercise during the holiday season is still vital to a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to make being active part of the holiday tradition. Stick to an exercise schedule or take a walk with a family member after a holiday meal. Just remember to stay active.
Making a large holiday meal for the family can produce large amounts of food that isn’t consumed. Those leftovers create a couple of opportunities. Use the leftover protein for salads or soups. If there are extra veggies, use them for breakfast omelets, additions to a sandwich or put them in a stew.