The holidays are upon us and, whether we admit it or not, the next couple of months often prove that our will power is perhaps not as strong as we think. From Thanksgiving’s eat-til-you-burst meal, to a month full of Christmas parties and neighbors’ cookie trays, to New Year’s Eve with fistfuls of chips and every alcoholic drink under the sun–it’s a wonder we ever make it out of holiday season alive.
While we certainly aren’t advocating you become the scrooge of holiday meals, we are suggesting that with a little extra planning beforehand you may be able to keep some of those extra pounds from finding you like they seem to every year.
And much of it begins with your holiday meal plan. Control what goes in your mouth by controlling what goes on the table. This year develop your holiday meal plan with a little strategy on your side.
3 Helpful Tips for Healthy Holiday Meal Planning
- Cut Sugar in Hidden Sources
Besides the mountains of Christmas cookies and tableful of freshly baked pies, some of our most loved holiday dishes pack hidden mounds of sugar. As you develop your holiday meal plan this year, look to eliminate sugar in these unnecessary areas, so you can save your sugar consumption for that (not-too-big) slice of pumpkin pie.
- Sweet Potato Casserole – Some hate it, some could not do holiday meals without it. Either way, it normally comes packed with added sugar. Consider changing up your sweet potato routine this year by looking for a variation on this traditional marshmallow and brown sugar dish. These roasted sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts are a tasty alternative packed with flavor but no added sugar.
- Salad Dressings – Another hidden source of added sugar, salad dressings can be deceiving. Opt out of the sugary poppy seed dressings or sweet and tangy raspberry vinaigrettes (they have to balance that tang with something – sugar!). Check the sugar content on dressings before putting them in your cart this year. Sugar is often the second ingredient in dressings. Better yet, consider making your own dressing this year. You can control the sugar amount and make your friends and family think you’re a whiz in the kitchen.
- Add in Good Fats
While we certainly know all the warnings about too many potato chips and heavy whipping cream, we often forget that our body still needs some fat – the good fats. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are found in a variety of foods and provide not only needed nutrient absorption but also fat-fighting properties. Found in things like nuts, good oils, fish, seeds and avocados, these fats work to satiate your hunger and lower bad cholesterol while raising the good cholesterol.It’s actually easier than you think to add these fats into your holiday meal planning:
- Pair your green beans with slivered almonds.
- Sprinkle your salad with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds for a nice crunch.
- Top your sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts with a handful of chopped pecans.
- Offer hummus dip (high in olive oil) for an appetizer with cut veggies.
- Make your famous pumpkin cream cheese cookies with some added flax and chia seeds. The flavor punch may surprise you!
- Eliminate Processed Foods
This holiday, take a little extra time to determine how you can eliminate as much processed food from your holiday meal planning as possible. While any redemptive nutritional qualities most assuredly will not be found in processed foods, they almost always come with added health detriments as well. Processed foods are usually high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, msg, sodium, saturated fats, and sometimes partially hydrogenated oils. All of these wreak havoc on your health and your weight.
- When making your green bean casserole, it only takes an extra 5 minutes to make your own cream-of-mushroom base.
- As already mentioned, whip up some homemade salad dressing 4-5 days in advance and pop it out the day of.
- Homemade bread always taste better – be the talk of the holiday meal by being the one to make it this year.
Whatever you do, make sure that you employ health conscious decisions in the prep stages of your holiday meal plan. Having a plan always helps when in-the-moment. Make sure you have plenty of healthy options on the table for this year’s holidays. But don’t worry…this doesn’t mean you have to cut the flavor!
For more ideas on smart holiday eating, Wellworks For You offers resources on our blog.