Tips to Eat Healthier During the Holidays

When you were a child, one of the best parts of the holiday season was probably the delicious meals and sweets that are a part of the celebration. Those cookies and that eggnog still taste good, but now you can’t indulge without worrying about the effect they’re having on your health.Tips to Eat Healthier During the Holidays

Many seniors have to cut down on foods that contribute to blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity as the age. But when holiday celebrations and parties start happening, you can’t go long without seeing those tempting treats all around you.

How to Eat Healthier During the Holidays

To get through the holidays unscathed, here are a few ways to enjoy yourself without going overboard:

1. Know going into the holiday season what you want to avoid.

There seem to be articles every day that contradict our ideas of what’s actually healthy or not. It can get complicated trying to parse from day to day whether or not carbs and dairy are necessary or to be avoided. Instead of worrying, talk to your doctor who’ll be able to comment on what you, specifically, should avoid or seek out based on your current health status.

Beyond the doctor’s orders, you can stick with common sense. Vegetable-heavy foods are generally good and processed sugars should be kept to a minimum. Avoid eating too much of foods high in trans fats, such as baked or fried goods like cookies and doughnuts. If your doctor said to reduce sodium, also be careful how much of the savory food you consume, unless you made it yourself and could control the amount of salt that went in.

2. Take your own healthy options to holiday gatherings.

Knowing what you should avoid doesn’t mean you won’t be faced with it at the first holiday party you attend (and every one thereafter). You can’t keep chocolates and cookies out of your life this time of year without foregoing all social engagements. But you can make sure there’s something healthy for you to eat at the party by bringing it yourself.

Once you’re there, make yourself a decent-sized serving of your own healthy recipe before you start in on anything else. It will help fill you up some before you start in on the unhealthy snacks around, so you’re not tempted to eat as much of them.

3. Try favorite recipes with healthier substitutions.

One of the frustrating things about the doctor’s orders to cut down on fats or sweets is realizing how many of your standard holiday recipes are now out of bounds. But you may be able to salvage some of those recipes by making a few tweaks that make them healthier without affecting the flavor too much.

Coconut milk and yogurt can often replace more fatty dairy options. For sweet recipes, applesauce or other fruit purees can be subbed in for butter or margarine. Look at the ingredients in the recipes you’d like to make and look for opportunities to change out the main ingredients that make them unhealthy with something similar but healthier.

Your experimenting may not turn out well, or you could end up liking the healthier version of your holiday recipe even more than the original. The only way to learn is to try it out.

4. Try new recipes that are healthier than your old standards, but still look good.

Some of your go-to holiday recipes may not be salvageable with substitutions, but that’s ok. You can make new holiday traditions. Go looking for new, tasty recipes to try that can replace the old standards. You may find you like mashed cauliflower as much as you enjoyed mashed potatoes, or realize that vegan vegetable tart makes a great entrée after all. There are so many recipes focused on health out there, you just have to take a little time to start browsing and see what looks good to you.

Eating healthy only seems like a chore before you start to really look into your options. You’ll almost certainly find some healthy recipes that are better than you expected.

5. Sub in hot tea for sweeter hot beverages.

You can be really good about sticking with healthy food this year and still consume loads of sugars and unnecessary calories in drinks. Hot chocolate and eggnog are common features during holiday gatherings. Those sugary drinks may make it feel like the holiday season, but at a serious health cost.

But you don’t have to give up on hot beverages to stay happy. Lots of tea companies put together holiday blends to go with the season. You can find teas that taste like apple cidergingerbread and candy canes, just to name a few options. While they’re not quite the same as those other beverages, they’re much healthier and can help keep you from feeling the lack.

6. Try not to have everything at the gathering.

When there’s a table full of snacks and sweets that people have all brought to the holiday party, it’s tempting to want to try some of everything. But you probably won’t even like it all and you definitely won’t like it for the amount of fat, salt and sugar the different items contain.

Instead, take some time to look over what’s there and figure out what you want to try the most. Treat yourself to one or two things that look good, and then stick with that healthy item you brought yourself (see #2) to fill you up.

You’ll appreciate the delicious treats you do have more if you’re not feeling like you have to stuff your face with everything you see just cause it’s there. If anyone gives you a hard time about not trying the dish they made, just say you’re following the doctor’s orders and watching what you eat this year.

7. Try keeping your serving sizes small.

This is another relatively easy, but important tip. Don’t serve yourself more than you need to get full. You won’t enjoy it more for eating twice as much of it – you get to appreciate the flavor of the food even if you stick with a few bites rather than a full plate. So intentionally serve yourself less.

A nice benefit of this tip is that, if you stick with it, it can be okay to eat foods that otherwise you feel you should avoid. A few bites of pudding doesn’t pack an unhealthy punch like a big bowl of it does. You can enjoy more of the foods you see and want to try if you can manage to keep them in moderation.

Don’t let the holidays make you veer away from the healthy goals you’ve set for yourself. You can enjoy food and participate in holiday festivities this year without overdoing it with the things the doctor says to avoid. Be thoughtful in what you make and how you eat and you’ll be fine.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

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