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How to Make Holiday Meals Healthier

You don’t have to give up your favorite foods to have a healthy holiday season. Ellen Liskov, registered dietitian nutritionist at Yale New Haven Hospital said it is all about making small adjustments in order to feel your best.

“You don’t want to modify a recipe so much that it’s not special anymore,” Liskov said. “You still want it to have that comfort feeling.”

Some easy changes you can make while cooking include:

  • Using olive, canola or vegetable oil instead of butter when sautéing dishes
  • Using 25% less sugar in a recipe
  • Use whole grain bread in stuffing
  • Use half the amount of topping for crumbles or casseroles
  • Make a single crust pie instead of a double crusted pie
Squash Soup

Pumpkin Soup

You can swap out the pumpkin for roasted butternut squash. Swirl in yogurt for a healthy topping.

Tips for healthy eating on a holiday

The morning of a big meal like Thanksgiving, Liskov suggests eating a wholesome breakfast like eggs and fruit or oatmeal with some Greek yogurt.

During dinner, start by filling your plate with some veggies and protein, leaving a smaller space for starches and heavier sides. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation and make a plan for how much you plan to consume. Try a drink like a wine spritzer that cuts down some of the alcohol with club soda.

During the meal, enjoy yourself but try not to eat so much that you end up feeling unwell later. You can always enjoy your favorite dishes the next day and many foods like rolls or side dishes freeze beautifully.

Apple Crisp

Fruit Crisp

Gluten free? Be sure to use gluten free oats and flour in the crumble topping.

Getting back on track

If you overindulged, there’s no need to beat yourself up. One unhealthy meal is not a big deal in the long term, even for many people who are on a special diet due to a health condition. With that in mind, Liskov suggests avoiding an ‘all or nothing’ approach to the holiday season.

“The most common statement is ‘I’ll start again on Monday.’ But what about Friday, Saturday, Sunday?” she said. “If you forgot to take your blood pressure pill, you wouldn’t say ‘I forgot to take it today. I’ll start again on Monday.’”

Even leftovers can be healthy in the days after a holiday. Scoop off fat before re-heating gravies and use turkey and veggies to make a soup or stir-fry.