Five tips to a healthier holiday meal
Don’t wait for the new year to start eating healthier.
Maybe you’re still working off that Thanksgiving day meal, or maybe you have a new health conscious family member coming for the holidays. Whatever the reason, there’s no time like the present to start eating healthier. When the words “healthy” and “holiday dinner” are spoken in the same sentence, most people cringe and protest, imagining the imfamous “to-furkey,” and mashed potatoes without butter. Gasp! However, healthy doesn’t have to mean tasteless and scary. Michigan State University Extension recommends following these tips to incorporate more healthy aspects into your holiday dinner this year:
- If your family is anything like mine, we like to make a day of it and end up eating all day long before the main meal even hits the table. There’s nothing wrong with snacking, but make sure there are plenty of healthy snack options rather than just cookies and chips. Fresh cut vegetables and a greek yogurt dill dip are a tasty alternative. Sliced fruit with peanut butter is also a good substitute. Unsalted nuts like almonds are great as well.
- Ham is often a common holiday meat, but it is very high in sodium and fat. Consider making a beef roast in the slow cooker instead. Add a bit of low sodium beef stock and plenty of herbs for flavoring. Utilizing the slow cooker will also free up the oven for other dishes. Baked fish is another healthy alternative to traditional holiday meat dishes. If you’re really daring, go for an entirely meatless main dish. There are tons of recipes out there for main dishes in which beans and other protein alternatives are the focal point.
- Try to avoid side dishes that have “cream of” anything soup in them. Creamy soups are high in sodium and fat. Greek yogurt is a great substitute for anything calling for cream soup. Try substituting at least half of the cream soup with greek yogurt. Just remember to never add greek yogurt to an already piping hot dish as it will cause it to curdle.
- Break the mashed potato tradition by switching to roasted vegetables. The perfect mash is always a hit, but is often laden with butter and/or sour cream. Cube winter squash, potatoes, beets, parsnips and carrots. Slice some garlic and onion and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat the vegetables. Don’t forget to add plenty of herbs, especially rosemary, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about onehour in a glass dish. This dish may just become a regular in your house year-round.
- Don’t forget about dessert! That’s right, you can still have dessert and call it “healthy.” Roasted pears drizzled lightly with honey or real maple syrup can be just as satisfying as that big piece of pumpkin pie. Honey is still sweet, but healthier than white sugar. Just make sure when you’re buying honey at the store that it is 100 percent pure. You will find that some “honey” is made from corn syrup and not honey at all. Other healthy upgrades to dessert are apple sauce or yogurt, which can replace butter, eggs or oil. For a recipe calling for 1/2 cup oil or butter, use 1/2 cup apple sauce or yogurt instead. For eggs, substitute 1/4 cup per large egg.