Simple swaps to help you eat healthy over the holidays


December 24, 2013

With the holiday season here, healthy eating is often lost among the presents, parties, and, of course, holiday foods. It is important to remember that a holiday meal can be healthy.

One way to make your holiday healthy is to limit the amount of sweets you have. This can be as easy as replacing one pie or batch of cookies with a fruit salad for dessert. This allows you to still get the sweets but limits the amount you have to eat.

Limit the variety of sweets. If you are going to make cut-out cookies, don’t make a pie and chocolate chip cookies to go with them. Limiting yourself to one type of dessert will prevent over-eating sweets.

Holiday meals also include an abundance of food. When more food is present, more food is eaten, so limiting the amount of food at a meal will help prevent overeating.

Making just enough food to feed your guests can limit the amount of calories consumed and can also help to save you money.

If the meal is pot-luck style, communicate with guests to make sure that one food group is not overdone and another is forgotten. If you make sure that each food group is present at a meal, that will provide healthy options and limit less-healthy ones.

Swap out foods for healthier options. Serving garlic or ranch mashed potatoes instead of mashed potatoes and gravy can save on calories and provide a different option.

Green beans sautéed with olive oil and seasonings can replace green bean casseroles and save on fat consumption. Make half of your green beans with olive oil and the other half in a casserole, this will let everyone get a taste of the casserole and save on the extra calories.

Don’t forget to include exercise at your family gatherings, weather permitting, of course. This not only burns off those extra calories from dinner, but can provide entertainment and family bonding.

The exercise does not need to be an intense aerobic workout. Taking a family walk if the weather is nice is a good way to get some exercise. If the weather is bad, consider playing an active video game such as Wii.

Playing in the snow, or just playing outside, is cheap and healthy entertainment. Build a snowman or play kickball or softball as a family.

Going to a park or playground is a great way to get kids active and burn off extra calories. It also gives parents a chance to get some fresh air and even play with the kids.

The holiday season is a time for fun, family and food. Remember that healthy eating and living does not need to be left out of the festivities.

Bucher is a dietetic student at Bluffton University who worked with the OSU Extension Office in Hancock County.