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Healthy Holiday Alternatives

While the holidays bring family and friends together, they also offer plenty of tasty temptations to overindulge in high-calorie treats. Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionists share healthy spins on your holiday feasts this year to maintain instead of gain.

Ginny Ives, RDN, LD, CDCES, LPC, FADCES

Eating a salad before the holiday meal can help fill you up so you are more inclined to eat smaller portions of higher calorie foods. I always include a salad with dark, green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale. You can even add festive toppings such as roasted pumpkin seeds or dried cranberries.

It is important to not skip meals the day of your holiday celebrations, especially breakfast. Skipping meals can lead to overeating indulgent foods at holiday festivities.

I highly recommend sticking with your exercise routine through the holiday season. Fatty, high-calorie holiday foods can make you feel sluggish, and physical activity is a great way to stay energized and burn the extra calories consumed. Enrolling your family and friends in a holiday themed 5K run or simply taking a walk around the neighborhood after your holiday meal can be fun and relaxing ways to stay active with your family and friends.

Amber Grapevine, MS, RDN, LD

If you find yourself with a holiday sweet tooth, opt for fresh fruits instead of sugary treats. Cranberries, pomegranates and cherries offer sweet, unique flavors that complement many dishes. In addition, seasonal vegetables such as butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and leeks can be roasted to caramelization perfection in the oven, lending a sweet flavor to your holiday dishes.

Focus on flavor when cooking up your festive foods and use herbs and spices to reduce the salt. Even cinnamon can be used for a savory taste. Plant oils can also serve as a healthier substitution for butter in stuffing or sweet potato casserole.

Try a few of these plant-based side dishes using popular seasonal produce this time of year.

Vegetables:

  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Parsnips

Fruits:                   

  • Apples
  • Clementines
  • Cranberries
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates

Remember to watch your portions as well, so you can enjoy the meal without feeling stuffed like your Christmas dinner turkey!

Traci Sheahan, RDN, LD

Along with extra calories, holiday parties, happy hours and family get-togethers can include increased alcohol consumption (for those who choose to partake). However, more alcohol equals more calories our bodies need to burn off. Ever wonder why the New Year brings a few extra pounds with it? Alcohol calories can quickly add up! These mocktail alternatives are equally as refreshing as they are festive and an excellent way to keep the flavor while cutting down on calories this holiday season.

Festive mocktails
With only 82 calories per 5 ounces, this simple spritzer recipe serves as a healthier alternative to regular wine spritzers with a cranberry-lime twist.

Cranberry-Lime Spritzer

In a large pitcher mix:

  • 11.5 oz. frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
  • 32 oz. sparkling water
  • 4 fresh limes, juiced

Pour five ounces of mixture in a martini glass and add a spring of fresh rosemary and fresh cranberries.

Curb the typical Cosmopolitan calories with this cheery pomegranate mocktail which contains only 52 calories per 6 ounces.

Pomegranate Martini Mocktail

  • 2 oz. pomegranate juice
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. sparkling water

Add pomegranate juice, orange juice and lime juice to a glass of crushed ice and stir. Top with sparkling water to fill the glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, lime or orange slices and a sprig of fresh mint or rosemary.

Embrace holiday cheer with this skinny spin on a classic eggnog recipe, weighing in with just 107 calories per 4 ounces.

Skinny Eggnog

  • 3 cups 1% milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Heat 2 ½ cups milk in a medium saucepan.
  2. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and pod to the saucepan and simmer over medium heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and cornstarch until it turns light yellow.
  4. Temper the eggs by gradually pouring the hot milk mixture one cup at a time into the egg mixture while whisking constantly.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the pan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the eggnog begins to thicken, about 6-7 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and immediately stir in remaining ½ cup milk to stop the cooking.
  7. Remove the vanilla pod, let the mixture cool and transfer it to a pitcher. Chill until ready to serve.
  8. Portion into glasses and garnish with grated nutmeg.

Consistency is key to staying on track with your healthy habits during the holidays. Celebrate with these practical tips and cheers to health and wellness this season.

To schedule a one-on-one nutrition consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

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