Christmas dinner isn’t the time when most people think about eating healthy. After all, it’s almost impossible to resist when you have Christmas candy everywhere, are baking delicious sugar cookies in the shape of reindeer and may even have a plump, juicy turkey waiting in the freezer.
But Christmas doesn’t have to be the season for overindulgence and unhealthy food if you don’t want it to be. In fact, it can be the season for eating better. The trick is to replace the unhealthy foods with better ones. Let’s start with dessert.
Pumpkin Pie: Everyone loves pie at Christmas dinner and you don’t have to get rid of it to be healthier this year. Just swap out your pumpkin pie for cherry. A typical slice of cherry pie is ¼ of the calories of a pumpkin pie and it has less sugar. In fact, if you want you can go with a sugar-free cherry pie that will be even better. If you absolutely love pumpkin pie, and can’t resist it, just limit it to one slice.
Stuffing: Stuffing can get really heavy with calories and unhealthy levels of salt and carbohydrates. Instead of going with stuffing, try something different like wild rice. With the right herbs and spices, you can make it just as delicious as stuffing, and you’ll be eating much healthier food.
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy: This is one of the most delicious Christmas foods that everyone looks forward to, but a scoop of potatoes with gravy can run you into more than 500 calories, not to mention sodium. First, limit your use of butter and mix the mashed potatoes with a veggie like squash for a healthier meal.
Cornbread: Lots of people enjoy cornbread during the holidays, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem comes when you slather 200 calories of butter onto an already 200 calories piece of cornbread. Try replacing the butter with yogurt and don’t use unhealthy ingredients like bacon fat or whole milk when making them.
Cranberry Sauce: The truth is, this Christmas dinner treat doesn’t really have that many calories. The problem is the sugar. There is a lot of sugar in canned cranberry sauce and it really makes sense to make your own. Even if you add fruit, it will probably still be healthier than store bought.
Homemade Mac & Cheese: This is a Christmas staple for some families but unfortunately, it is one of the most calorie heavy foods out there. In fact, depending upon the ingredients and the amount, this food can reach more than 1000 calories with a serving that you would be surprised how small it is.
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are one of the great treats enjoyed at Christmas but the problem is, most people do one of two things with them – cover with them lots and lots of butter, or bake them into an unhealthy casserole with butter and cream. That’s about 500 calories per serving. Instead, consider green bean casserole; lower calories, lower sodium and lower fat.
Christmas Turkey: Some people don’t eat meat but for those who do, ham is a much better choice than turkey. Not only is ham cheaper than turkey to buy (especially when you buy a whole one) but it contains less fat, less sodium and almost 1/3 fewer calories.
Salads: For many families, Christmas dinner is a time for salads. But don’t think that means healthy green salads with dressing – it actually means super calorie packed food like potato salad and macaroni salad, both of which are jam-packed with calories. Instead, try some green salad and Italian dressing. You might be surprised how good it tastes and how many calories it is going to save you.
Christmas Cookies: Finally, the last item on our list is Christmas cookies. Yes, they are high in calories but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy them or feel the need to swap them out for something else! It’s Christmas dinner! If you have followed all of the recommendations here then you safely enjoy some Christmas cookies without going over your recommended calories, sodium or carbs. Even if that’s not the case, you can still enjoy a few Christmas cookies – after all, it is Christmas!