‘Tis the season for endless cookies and delicious sweets! We know it can be difficult to resist these yummy temptations, and we totally think it’s okay to indulge once in awhile. That being said, eating healthy during the holidays is easier than you might think! We’re here to share helpful tips and food ideas to keep you on the right track during this magical season.
We spoke with dietitian Joanne Larsen and she shared her top seven holiday foods that are actually good for you. “These are best in moderation, 1 average size serving,” Larsen says. Check them out below and be sure to read her expert advice as to why they’re healthy options!
Who doesn’t love butter? It always adds a bit of yumminess to your foods of choice, so you could say we were excited to learn it’s possibly good for us. “New research on butter shows that the fats in butter may be healthier than margarine because margarine contains partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils that contribute to heart disease because they may contain trans fats,” Larsen explains. Remember, moderation is key.
This classic drink is a must at almost every holiday party. And there’s always that one aunt who insists on making it spiked -- yes, please. Larsen explains, “Eggnog is basically egg + milk with some sugar and nutmeg sprinkled on top. Egg and milk are nature's two most perfect foods in nutrient composition.” Who knew nature had “perfect foods?” Larsen suggests sticking with 5 ounces of eggnog with or without alcohol.
3. Turkey Stuffing
Every family makes their stuffing in a unique way, but this one sounds especially delicious. “Bread, veggies (celery & onion) and butter flavored with chicken broth and seasonings is like eating buttered bread.” Larsen continues, “Don't go overboard! It’s best if the stuffing is made from whole grain bread to get your B vitamins, too.” Sounds easy enough. If you’re lucky enough to help make dinner for your family, give this a try!
Related: 5 Foods You Should Eat Mindfully
4. Candied Sweet Potatoes
“Yummy!” Larsen says. “These are another vegetable serving, often cooked in brown sugar and butter, but a good source of nutrients.” Did you know sweet potatoes are actually yams? They may not be as healthy as carrots, especially once we smother them in butter, but they have plenty of nutrients when cooked!
5. Green Bean Casserole
Another traditional holiday dish, green bean casserole seems to be a go-to for many families. “Make this with green beans, mushroom soup and fried mushrooms on top,” Larsen suggests. “You get two veggies and mushrooms are high in selenium, a mineral.” It may not have the fried onions on top, which some argue is the best part, but it sounds just as tasty nonetheless!
“These are fried potato pancakes for Hanukkah, often served with sour cream (lower in fat per teaspoon than butter) and / or applesauce.” Larsen explains. Anything with the word “fried” in it has our attention. And dipping these in applesauce? Yes please. Larsen continues, “Did you know that 10 pounds of potatoes cooked in milk and served with cabbage have 100 percent of your RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)? OK you aren't going to eat that many potatoes!” For all you potato lovers out there, challenge accepted.
The beautiful thing about pies is there are so many to choose from! Larsen suggests, “Pumpkin or pecan pie (in moderation which would be 1/8 slice of pie once a week).” Two of our favorite kinds for sure. Larsen continues, “Pumpkin is a vegetable like sweet potatoes while pecans contain antioxidants that prevent free radical damage to your body.” Who knew! Be sure not to pass on the pie this year, it’s doing more for your body than you think.
Aside from specific foods, we also wanted to give you a cheat sheet for this holiday season when it comes to choosing healthier options! Nevine Duncan, a Nutrition Coach at Powerhouse Gym, shares her “choose this over that” food ideas to make navigating dinner options even easier:
Choose this over that:
- Poultry over ham
- Salads over casseroles
- Red wine over eggnog
- Baked fruit desserts over pie
- Veggies with gravy over stuffing
Red wine over eggnog? We can definitely get on board with that. Duncan also recommends, "Drinking a glass of water between drinks to keep you hydrated, full, and keep the hangovers away.” This advice can definitely be used past the holidays, too.
At the end of the day, no matter where you are or who you’re with, remember to be thankful for all that you have as we welcome this holiday season with open arms. Cheers to healthy eating and genuine times!