Family meals are one of the most essential parts of any gathering, especially during the holidays. For 83% of people, food plays a huge role in holiday traditions. The act of cooking and eating these meals brings people together and evokes a sense of tradition and nostalgia you can only experience during a certain time of year. But with so many gatherings and so many dishes to eat, many are usually worried about how holiday food impacts health.
If you want to make more nutritious dishes while sticking to what everyone loves, here are some tips to make your holiday meals healthier:
Prioritize nutritional value
No one wants to stop the holiday fun and avoid all the goodies that are “bad” for us, especially since these “bad” foods are usually really delicious. However, researchers behind modern weight loss programs have long since debunked the idea of “good” and “bad” food. Rather, the focus should be on which items are more nutritious – which would include a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables, fruit, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, fish, shellfish, chicken, and turkey breast, to name a few. These nutritious foods can be the foundation of a healthy holiday meal, so try out dishes with these ingredients for a health boost.
Modify your recipes
You might be considering changing your usual lineup of meals for something healthier, but that is not necessary. Rather than think of a whole new set of meals to be served, change around some parts of your recipes to incorporate more nutritious ingredients like the ones mentioned above. Olive oil is a healthier alternative to canola oil or butter, so you can use it when sautéing dishes. Use yogurt instead of cream or sour cream in things like sauces, dressings, or desserts for more calcium and protein. Try using whole grain bread in stuffing, it’s rich in fiber and vitamins that can boost your dish’s health factor.
Add more veggies to the roster
Vegetables are usually pretty polarizing foods, and not everyone is a big fan of them. However, their health benefits are indisputable, and adding more veggies to your usual meals or putting a wider array of veggie-based dishes to your list of holiday meals can increase the number of nutrients on the table. You can consider root and winter vegetables such as carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes as they’re in season and provide a lot of fiber, carbohydrates, and vitamin C. You can roast them with other ingredients, put them in soups, or make salads with them. Having more of these healthy options can reduce the amount of less nutritious food on people’s plates.
Adjust your serving sizes
Other than the nutritional value of your food, changing serving sizes can ensure everyone can eat what they love while still making healthier choices. For foods that are more nutritious, put them in bigger platters or bowls to encourage people to eat more of them. Put less nutritious foods in smaller containers first, and you can replenish servings if people still want more. You can also try using smaller plates to allow people to slow down their food intake and avoid getting too full. This way, you can help your loved ones avoid overeating and give them more opportunities to try the healthy dishes on the table.
This part of the year is usually a time of indulgence, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! During the holiday season, take your mind off the calories and focus on nutrition. Nothing should be off limits, but always try to look for healthier options to keep your holiday feast balanced.