Healthy Holiday Food Choices: Family Edition

Making merry doesn’t need to weigh your family down with excess calories, fat, and sugar. Eat smart this holiday season with these tips for choosing the right foods and getting your family involved in menu planning and food prep.

Holiday happenings are notorious for adding jiggle to the waistline. While estimates vary, most experts agree the average American gains between one and five pounds over the holiday season. The good news is you don’t need to bulk up while you deck the halls.

1. Swap out at least one traditional recipe for a healthier dish.
Many holiday recipes are handed down from generation to generation, which means you may cause a riot if you swap out all your family’s favorite comfort foods. Instead, look for healthier alternatives to one or two traditional dishes. For example, trade cheesy mashed potatoes for a roasted sweet potato dish (without the marshmallows, of course), or ditch a heavy casserole for a fresh green bean recipe. Take a family poll to determine which one or two holiday foods you’ll “health up” this year.

2. Shorten the sugar train.
From school to work, from church to home, it seems like sweet treats are unavoidable this time of year. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise some control over how much of the sugary stuff your loved ones are consuming. When you choose to serve treats, trade sweets for less sugary options, like air-popped popcorn or whole wheat pretzels. If possible, find a way to substitute an activity for sugary foods. For example, rather than give the kids a chocolate advent calendar piece each night, ask them to write down one thing for which they’re thankful.

3. Trade “weakness” ingredients for healthier options.
What’s your family’s weakness when it comes to holiday eating? Baked goods? Creamy party dips? Chances are good you can find a healthy swap for that go-to ingredient that’s probably adding inches to your collective waistlines. Try these food substitutions:

  • Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt for sour cream
  • Applesauce for vegetable oil
  • Brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa for white rice
  • Whole wheat flour to partially replace white flour (use a 1:1 ratio)

4. Offer two healthy snacks every day.
The holiday season is busy, so keep everyone’s hunger under control with a nutritious snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This helps avoid the blood sugar dips that send you or your loved ones diving face-first into the nearest bag of snack food. Healthy family snack options include:

  • Low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks
  • Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries or healthy granola
  • Whole, fresh fruits
  • Sliced vegetables
  • Unsalted almonds or walnuts

Ask kids to help choose the weekly snack menu. When it’s time to snack, they can also help serve the munchies.

5. Serve a veggie plate before dinner.
When the family is hungry, it’s hungry. Even if you’re serving snacks during the day, by dinner those holiday activities can take their toll on energy and blood sugar levels. Take advantage of those tummy rumblings by setting out fresh veggies to snack on before dinner. If your loved ones insist on eating vegetables with dip, choose a low-fat dip or a healthier option like hummus or fat-free salsa. Enlist older children or your partner to slice and serve veggies while you prep dinner.

6. Dust off the slow cooker.
The slow cooker is your best friend in the kitchen over the holidays. It makes healthy meal prep oh-so-simple when you’ve got a crazy busy night that includes homework, choir practice, karate class, and baking cookies for the holiday bake sale. Ask family members to help choose slow cooker recipes. When It’s time to prep, even little ones can dump ingredients you’ve pre-sliced into the appliance.

Don’t let the holidays weigh you down. Use these tips to make healthier holiday food choices and get your family involved in menu planning and food prep.

Healthy Holiday Food Choices: Family Edition

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