I know, I know. When I think of the traditional holiday meal, I’m not really thinking something that is at the top of the list of health food eats either. However, as I am making my best effort to not completely blow it this holiday season, I want to focus on tweaking the traditional holiday fare just slightly so I can enjoy my favorite “Christmas foods” without all of the added calories, fat, and other unhealthy ingredients. I am especially excited to share these tips for planning a healthy holiday meal with you, as I am beginning to think about our menu for Christmas Day. This is not only our first Christmas in our home, but it is also the first Christmas that we get to invite others into our home on Christmas!
When it comes to holiday eating, I am definitely in the “all things in moderation” camp, or at least I try to be. So, don’t get worried just yet. I’m not going to tell you to leave out all the yummies or to opt for a “no desserts allowed” holiday feast. However, what I will do is share with you some ways that we (during the holidays and all year round) swap certain ingredients and focus on specific foods to eat a healthier more balanced diet.
Healthy Meal Planning for the Holidays
As I share my suggestions with you, keep in mind that in no way am I saying that these guidelines create a “healthy diet” that you should focus on eating all year round. Using these tips, though, you will be able to create a menu that is at least slightly lighter and friendlier on your digestive system (as well as your waistline).
1. Choose Wholegrain
Incorporating wholegrains in your holiday meal planning is a great way to get some added fiber into your diet. These foods will also help stabilize your blood sugar levels as you are eating some added sugar (and likely carbohydrates) compared to normal. We love wholegrains in our house, so that’s no great challenge. If you’re not as familiar with them, though, opt for wholegrain pastas, breads, rolls, etc. You can find a wholegrain option of pretty much any bread or pasta-based food in your typical grocery store.
2. Offer Lean Meats
Instead of featuring a heavy prime rib as your main course of your Christmas fare, opt for a lighter, leaner meat. Choose turkey breast or chicken, for example, to save on saturated fat. Your arteries will thank you! Plus, with a little basting and the right spice combo, you’ll get just as much flavor out of your bird.
3. Avoid Heavy Sauces
It’s traditional to feature a heavy sauce or creamy dressing on the table during your meal on Christmas day. Choose a lighter alternative instead. We love vinaigrettes, so I plan on serving a salad with a light vinaigrette dressing as compared to a slaw with a heavy cream-based dressing. The same goes for your meat gravy, etc. Try featuring a light cranberry sauce or dressing alongside your turkey instead of a thick, creamy, calorie-laden gravy.
4. Feature Greens and Other Veggies
Side dishes are important for “fleshing out” your meal. Traditional holiday side dishes include dense foods like mashed potatoes and gravy or traditional stuffing. Instead, try serving fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, or another one of your family’s favorite veggie-focused sides. We love steamed green beans, so I’ll likely be featuring them front and center plus a few others.
5. Offer Light Beverages
You can even save on calories and nutritional content with the beverages you serve. Our family is full of water-drinkers, so I plan on having some fresh iced water. I think I may even infuse some water with cranberries, blueberries, or a citrus fruit for an added tang. I’m not saying don’t serve other options for your guests, but make sure you highlight light, refreshing drink choices. Even unsweetened green tea is a better option than soda or a juice cocktail.
(Click the image for a free copy of the tips to use in your own kitchen!)
As I prepare for our healthy holiday meal, I keep reminding myself that the most important thing is that we’ll all be together not the fact that we’re eating. When we keep things in perspective and have a variety of healthy, tasty foods at our fingertips, it’s much easier to stay on track health-wise. If you’ve overdone it at a holiday meal or party, though, don’t worry about it. Just do your best to get back on track and make better food choices immediately following.
What are your favorite ways to create a healthy holiday meal? Do you have any favorite healthy Christmas recipes?