Holiday Food Makeover

It is the time of year. The holidays are under way. Halloween has just wrapped up and now November has started. That means that Thanksgiving is coming at the end of the month and then Christmas next month. I love the holidays and all the festivities that come with the holidays (the food, the family get togethers, the travel, etc). One of the big ways that Americans celebrate is with food. That means that most get-togethers include food and normally the options aren’t the healthiest. This can be overwhelming for people to know how to navigate that holiday spread and know how to make smart choices. 

If you have the opportunity to cook food for your Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday get together then consider making some healthy swaps to those recipes. 

  1. Tweak the sweets – This incorporates making healthy options available for desserts. You can definitely include your traditional pumpkin pie, but also put together a fruit salad, which is a healthier option. This is going to have less added sugar compared with the pie and will have more fiber from the fruit, making a much friendlier diabetic choice. 
  2. Cheers to good health – Make sure to watch out for added sugars and calories in festive holiday drinks. This includes regular soda, sweet tea/lemonade, and alcoholic drinks. There can be a lot of added calories hiding in these beverages. Make sure to space out your drinks with glasses of water. Set a goal to make every other glass, a glass of water versus only drinking sweet tea or that delicious mixed drink.
  3. Bake healthier – If you are in charge of cooking food for your next holiday party then consider some healthy swaps you can make when baking. You can substitute applesauce or bananas for the fat source (like the butter or oil) in various dessert recipes. You can also use greek yogurt in place of sour cream. These simple substitutions can help to decrease the overall calories in the dish you are putting together. 
  4. Spice it up - Lots of us love to use salt to enhance the flavor of the food that we are preparing. This isn’t always the best thing for our heart health. Consider using over spices to add flavor that don’t contain salt, like sage, garlic, pepper, Italian seasoning or cumin.  
  5. Brighten your meal – As you load up your plate, make sure to fill your plate with ½ fruits and vegetables. Your plate should be colorful and not just filled with starches like white potatoes, yellow corn and a white roll. Brighten up that plate with over colors from the rainbow such as orange carrots, green salad, red cranberries and yellow squash.  
  6. Skim the fat – When your recipe calls for a full fat item like heavy cream, butter or whole milk, consider using skim milk, low fat cheese or margarine instead. This will help to decrease the overall fat being added to the dish and cut the overall calories. If you feel like the flavor would be jeopardized with this change, then add in some extra spices that are not just salt. 
  7. Swap the grains – If you just have to have your dinner roll with your holiday meal, consider using a whole grain roll in place of just a white roll option. This is more diabetic friendly, because the whole grains will break down to simple sugars slower and this will help prevent a sharp blood sugar spike. This can be applied to crust of pies even. You could use half the flour in your pie crust as whole grains and then the other half white flour. This might change the texture of the pie, but might be a fun, new way to make a traditional recipe a little healthier. 
  8. Go easy on the gravy – When you ask for the gravy to be passed over to you, make sure that you don’t send your turkey swimming in it. Use the gravy in moderation. If the meat or potatoes have good flavor, they might not even require gravy poured over them. This is just an extra calorie source and not always necessary if you are trying to make healthier choices.