From Buffets to Parties to Food Gifts

How can you enjoy the holidays guilt-free (it’s easier than you may think)

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you are watching your diet and trying to eat healthfully, the holiday season can seem a minefield of culinary hazards, from buffets to parties to food gifts. But it does not have to be. For mothers day gift baskets, people can check the best options here!

You may enjoy a few more treats than normal—no one wants to eat like the Grinch all season. A few tweaks in how you eat can help you keep up the holiday spirit while not blowing your healthful eating plan.

Lisa Thomas, registered dietitian and owner of Lisa Thomas Nutrition Counseling in Syracuse, tries to emphasize finding balance by adding to meals plenty of fruits and vegetables, a source of protein and a carbohydrate to each meal.

“Typically, holiday meals are very high in carbohydrates,” Thomas said.

To bring better balance, she encourages serving appetizers that include a vegetable and a protein, and plenty of veggie-based side dishes with the meal, like roasted butternut squash and roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon parmesan topping.

“It’s about balancing those macro nutrients instead of creamy sauces in vegetables,” she said.

It’s also helpful to look at traditional dishes. If no one in your family likes a dish you’ve always done, Thomas said it may be time to try something else instead of making—and eating—something for no reason.

“It’s all about mindful eating,” said Kelly Springer, registered dietitian and owner of Kelly’s Choice in Skaneateles. “Food is all around us during this season, so mindful eating is important.”
Instead of drinking empty calories, Springer recommends diluting alcohol with spritzers.

“You’ll be better hydrated and less prone to hangover,” she said. “Use ice in your drinks.”

Try flavored seltzers garnished with pomegranate or “mocktails” with herbal tea and a little fruit juice offer a flavorful, festive beverage low in calories.

A few smart swaps can keep your veggies and fruits healthful. For example, instead of the creamy green bean casserole with a family meal, she likes to roast green beans with balsamic vinegar, pecans and olive oil. Instead of canned cranberry sauce, look up a lower sugar recipe and fix your own. Green beans and cranberries both offer fiber and a bevy of antioxidants.

By offering a large variety of vegetables, you likely can increase your chances of loading up your plate with them.

“Brussels sprouts are high in fiber, vitmains and minerals,” said Laurel Sterling, registered dietitian with Carlson Labs in Canastota. “Half a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts gives 137% RDI of vitamin K, 81% of RDI for vitamin C and 135 mg. of alpha-lipoic acid.”

She’s also a fan of cauliflower. Offer raw cauliflower with hummus dip. One cup of the white veggie contains 77% RDI of vitmain C. It’s also high in fiber and provides 45 mg. of choline, vitmains, minerals and antioxidants sulforaphane and glucosinolates.

Consider skipping fatty roasts and ham for leaner sources of protein.

“Turkey is a healthful source of protein, rich in B vitamins and is high in selenium, phosphorus, and zinc,” Sterling said.

Swap out the simple carbohydrate dishes like bread-based stuffing and white rolls for whole grain choices to increase fiber and help you feel full longer.

Instead of white potatoes, try sweet potatoes, which are nutritional powerhouses.

“Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals antioxidants and fiber,” Sterling said. “Sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in beta carotene, the antioxidant responsible for the vegetable’s bright orange color. Anthocyanins are antioxidants found in purple sweet potatoes.”

Another example of orange produce, squash offers “fiber, vitamins A, C and B6, folate, riboflavin and and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

“Technically a fruit, one cup of butternut squash contains 457% of the RDA of vitamin A. Yellow squash is also rich in manganese. This mineral helps to boost bone strength and helps the body’s ability to process fats and carbohydrates,” Sterling said.

The dessert table can be dangerous territory during celebrations. While they are all high in calories, serve more nutritious treats such as bite-sized truffles made with dark chocolate, a good source of antioxidants, and nuts and fruit. Truffles also help with portion control. Baked apples or pears sprinkled with cinnamon can also provide a sweet treat without as many calories as pie.

Sterling said that apples are high in fiber and pectin, a prebiotic and several vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants—polyphenols—like peicatechin are found in the peel.

“Pears are rich in vitamins C and K and in minerals potassium and copper. They’re filled with soluble and insoluble fiber. An excellent source of polyphenol antioxidants, pears are anti-inflammatory. There are studies on pears’ effect on cancer. Their anthocyanins lend a ruby red hue. Pears with a green skin feature lutein and zeaxanthin,” she said.

Cook up dessert recipes with pomegranate and cranberries. Sterling said that pomegranate provide antioxidants, vitmins C and K, folate and potassium. Tangy, tart cranberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C and other antioxidants.

“They have plant compounds concentrated in the skin, quercetin and myricetin,” Sterling said. “They can help prevent e. coli from attaching to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract and may increase HDL and lower LDL cholesterol.”

11 Ways to Handle Holiday Parties

As you attend holiday celebrations, you can plan to make better choices.

1. Don’t sit near the food table. “At a gathering, don’t stand near the food table and just eat. Grab a little cocktail plate. Just one cube of cheese is about 100 calories, for example, so eating them without thinking means those calories add up fast.

2. Practice mindful eating. “Food is all around us during this season, so mindful eating is important.

3. Full your plate with greens. “It’s healthful to fill 75% of your plate with [food-based] plants.”

4. Choose smaller portions of healthier dishes.

5. Make most of your choices from the vegetables and protein choices.”

6. You can choose a little serving.

7. Enjoying yourself is priority. “One day isn’t going to hurt anyone. Have what you like.

8. Don’t hurt yourself. “Do you feel physically bad after you leave the party? If you do, why do you hurt yourself? Say to yourself, ‘I don’t have to have everything.’ What can you eat where you don’t feel sick afterwards? Stuffing yourself has become normalized in our culture.

9. Don’t arrive hungry. “A lot of times people don’t eat first and they’re hungry. They’ll eat many more calories than if they had breakfast and lunch.

10. Try to find a serving of protein, some carbs and some fruits and vegetables. Dietary fats are usually easy to find.

11. If it’s dish to pass, bring a fruit and veggie dish.

Tips 1 to 3 from Kelly Springer, registered dietitian and owner of Kelly’s Choice in Skaneateles;

Tips 4 and 5 from Laurel Sterling, registered dietitian with Carlson Labs in Canastota;

Tips 6 to 11 from Lisa Thomas, registered dietitian and owner Lisa Thomas Nutrition Counseling, Syracuse.