Tips to Lighten Up Your Holiday Menu

Eating Healthy During the Holidays

From family gatherings, to workplace celebrations, to holiday vacations - the holiday season can be a joyful and fun-filled time of year. But if you’ve been working hard to eat healthier and control your diabetes, the holidays can also create a lot of stress. Not only do schedules fill up fast, but it’s extremely difficult to eat healthy when it comes to traditional holiday grub.

This and the struggle to keep up an exercise routine is why many of us put on a few pounds at the end of the year. What’s more, most people never lose those extra pounds, and as the years go by, they can start to add up. Sure, favorite family recipes and drinks are an important part of many holiday traditions. But there are a few small steps you can take to keep a healthy balance in your life while still fully enjoying the celebration. The tips below can help.

General Healthy Holiday Tips

  1. Stick to your fitness routine as much as possible. Set aside time to do some kind of activity most days. If you can’t get to the gym:

    • Go for a walk with a family member or friend after dinner.
    • Take the kids out to play in the snow, go sledding, or try another winter activity together.
    • Remember, heavy cleaning before guests arrive can also be a way to fit more activity into your day.
    • Split up your activity into bouts of no less than 10 minutes. You could go for three, 10-minute walks throughout the day and that still counts!
  2. Bring something to the holiday party that’s on the healthier side. When you aren’t celebrating, make sure you have healthy foods around to make meals at home.
  3. When filling your plate at holiday parties, use the diabetes plate as your guide.
  4. Eat mindfully. When you eat slowly and savor your holiday favorites, you’ll enjoy meal time even more than usual!
  5. To work in a serving of your favorite holiday dessert, try to cut back on the carbohydrate that you have at your meal. To learn more about fitting in sweets with diabetes, see our meal makeover article, Including a Holiday Treat.
  6. If you over-indulge, don’t get down on yourself. Decide what you’ll do better next time and move on. Start fresh the next day with healthy eating and exercising. You could even add some extra exercise to your routine to burn off some of the calories from the day before.

Are you doing the holiday cooking?

You might be able to make a few healthy swaps in your recipes without anyone noticing! Here are some simple recipe substitutions that could make a big difference. Try some of them out on the crowd this year.

  • Does your family love creamy dips for an appetizer? For cold dips that use mayonnaise, try replacing the mayo with a mix of light mayonnaise and plain nonfat Greek yogurt. For dips that call for cream cheese, use a mix of lower fat cream cheese and fat-free cream cheese. 
  • Making a cheesy casserole? Try cutting the cheese or butter in your recipe by 25%-50%. You can also try lower fat or reduced-calorie versions of many common casserole ingredients like sour cream, cream cheese, and condensed soup. 
  • Stuffing is a staple for many Thanksgiving feasts. How about adding some extra sautéed vegetables to your stuffing like carrots, onions, mushrooms, and celery?
  • For poultry like chicken or turkey, simply remove the skin before eating to reduce the saturated fat and calories.
  • When picking out dinner rolls, opt for whole grain rolls. It's okay to offer butter to spread on the dinner rolls, but put out some trans-free margarine if you can as well.
  • When you are making a fruit pie, sweet potato casserole, or apple crisp, try adding less sugar than you usually do. These dishes will still be perfectly sweet and flavorful because of the natural sugars in the produce!

Put veggies back on the menu.

If you use the diabetes plate to plan meals, the goal is to fill half of your plate with nonstarchy vegetables. But nonstarchy vegetables are often missed when planning a holiday feast. If you are cooking this year, add a festive vegetable option the menu. Here are some ideas:

Bring Healthy To the Party

Maybe you aren’t the one hosting the holiday dinner or gathering this year. That doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute to the spread. Your host will probably appreciate the help! Offer to bring a holiday dish that’s been lightened up a bit. Browse all of our holiday recipes  on Recipes for Healthy Living and try one that catches your eye!

Include a Holiday Treat

What’s your favorite holiday treat? For this month’s meal makeover, we’ll show you some ways to fit a portion of tasty dessert into a holiday meal.

Read More

Balanced Holiday Meals

Here’s an example of how you can enjoy holiday favorites while keeping a healthy balance in your meal plan.

Read More

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