The holidays are a special time of year in which we celebrate with families and friends and good food. It’s perfectly fine to indulge a little bit on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but make sure you are not indulging Thanksgiving through Christmas. While losing weight during the holiday season may be too stressful of a goal, just maintaining one’s weight can also prove to be its own challenge. Two major culprits to weight gain during this time of year are increased caloric intakes (from dishes with excessive carbs and fat) and decreased physical activity levels. Staying healthy this time of year is much easier than one may think. All it takes is a few food swaps and better exercise patterns.
1. Bring on the vegetables! Vegetables are such a great food group in our diets because they are low in calories, generally lower in carbohydrates and pack in a ton of vitamins and minerals. Add 1 cup of cooked winter squash and 1 cup of tossed green salad to your plate for healthy carbs, fiber and nutrients. Adding mushrooms, onions, shredded carrots and zucchini to meat dishes can help cut down the fat and calories per serving.
2. Swap vegetables for common starches. Swap 1 cup of spaghetti squash for 1 cup of pasta and save 158 calories. Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bread with your next sub sandwich order and save up to 350 calories. (Calorie count based off of a regular Jimmy John’s sandwich vs. their un-wich variety)
3. Pull out the yolks. I love a protein-powered breakfast with eggs, but if you are using multiple eggs, the calories can add up quickly. For every egg yolk you take out, you save 55 calories.
4. Swap nuts for empty snack foods like pretzels and crackers. This swap may not change the amount of calories you are consuming, but it will improve the type of calories you are taking in. Nuts are full of nutrients, protein and fiber; and they have a lot more staying power than a handful of pretzels.
5. Be mindful of your breads. Did you know that a bagel has more than double the amount of calories of an English muffin? The thickness of your bread also raises the amount of calories it has in it. If you’re big on sub sandwiches, try scooping out some of the excess bread from the top bun which will reduce the amount of carbs and calories with your meal.
1. Try using plain yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes. This will lighten the calories of your dish plus add some protein, calcium and Vitamin D.
2. Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg in a recipe. Save calories and fat by taking advantage of this healthy swapportunity.
3. Use prune puree in place of oil in chocolate desserts. At first glance, this swap seems pretty terrifying, but I was totally hooked after I made a batch of chocolate fudge brownies with this alternative. Reduce the fat in your recipe in half and replace with ¼ of prune puree. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, reduce to ½ cup and add ¼ cup of prune puree.
4. Use a can of diet soda in place of oils. Choose a diet cola for chocolate desserts and diet Mountain Dew for light-colored desserts. Mix one can of diet soda with one box of cake/cupcake mix and bake as directed. This is an old Weight Watchers trick that my mom used to use. While it is still not the healthiest of dessert options, it does slash the amount of fat and calories in the recipe.
5. Use ground turkey, ground chicken or lean ground beef in stews and casseroles. A lot of people have a hard time switching to turkey or chicken burgers because the lack of fat in the meat causes them to dry out very easily. It’s best to use these substitutes when making a dish with a sauce component such as spaghetti sauce, chili or a casserole. The moisture of the sauce will help keep these leaner meat selections from drying out. Remember to look for all-white meat varieties. Regular ground chicken is made from a blend of both white and dark meat chicken so it has potential to contain just as much fat and calories as ground beef varieties.