Meal Plan Created By: Amanda Kostro Miller
It’s holiday season! That usually means more gatherings with family and friends. It can also mean more food — sometimes a lot more food. No matter the holiday celebration or gathering, the temptations can feel endless…buttery mashed potatoes, latkes, glazed ham, fried turkey, and pies, oh my! Holiday foods also tend to fall in line with comfort foods. They can be nostalgic and bring us back to childhood memories. They also tend to be higher in fats, carbs, and sugars. So, can you enjoy the holiday festivities without foregoing your heart-healthy lifestyle? Here’s what you need to know.
In Case You Missed It: Healthy Comfort Foods
The Skinny on Holiday Weight Gain
According to a study by OnePoll, Americans expect to gain an average of eight pounds over the holidays.1 The good news is that few actually gain as much as five pounds. 2But, that’s not a license to forego your usual healthy habits. Author Jack A. Yanovski, MD, head of Growth and Obesity at the National Institutes of Health, said "The good news is that most people are not gaining five or six pounds during the holidays, but the bad news is that weight gained over the winter holidays isn't lost during the rest of the year," he said. That means it’s important to hold the extra pounds at bay. Sound impossible? It’s not.
Download The Printable Meal Plan
Tips for Healthier Holidays
While it may be tempting just to let yourself indulge — it’s the holidays after all — it’s important to stick to your healthy routine. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fabulous holiday spreads, you just need to stick to a few simple tips.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
It may be tempting to skip a meal to save those calories for later, but you’re setting yourself up for those tempting treats to satisfy your hunger. Start your day off with a heart-healthy breakfast like Vanilla Chia Pudding.
You don’t have to eat everything set out on the table. If it’s something you only eat once or twice a year, go ahead and enjoy. Just make sure that all of your other meals during the day — and week — are filled with nutrient-dense, healthy vegetables and lean proteins.
Watch the Portions
Along with moderation comes moderating those portions. Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach, as the saying goes. If you’re planning on indulging a bit more than usual, just keep the portions in check.
Find Healthy Substitutions
The term “healthy recipe” often gets a bad rap. Healthy can be just as delicious. It’s easy to make a few tweaks to a recipe to cut down on fat and calories without losing the flavor. Try using less butter or use yogurt instead of sour cream. Little substitutions can go a long way in creating a healthier dish.
Slow Down During Meals
Take time to savor the food by eating slowly. Not only will you truly enjoy the meal, it helps you better absorb nutrients and feel full sooner so you eat less. One study found that calorie intake decreased and fullness hormone levels increased when the number of chews per bite went up from 15 to 40.3
Whether it’s a walk, hike, or at-home workout, staying active will help burn those extra calories and even reduce your appetite.4 As a bonus, being active lowers your blood pressure, reduces stress, and strengthens muscles.5
Related: How to Stay Active Over the Holidays
Healthy Holiday Recipes
Staying healthy over the holidays can feel a little daunting, but it is possible with a little planning and sticking to our simple tips. Start your morning off right then enjoy one of our heart-healthy, holiday-inspired lunch recipes like Cauliflower Mac and Cheese or Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash. Having company over? Dish out a healthy Holiday Tortellini Soup or Butternut Squash Tart. When your sweet tooth starts nagging and you’ve been craving a traditional dessert, enjoy a healthier alternative to apple pie with our Apple Crisp Topping. The most important takeaway is to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.