As we head toward the diet-wrecking days of Thanksgiving and Christmas, many people have already resigned themselves to the fact that any efforts towards healthy eating will officially be shoved aside until January. It’s the same old vicious cycle: we binge for the holidays, feel remorse and make grand resolutions to lose weight after the new year, then we agonize about trying to exercise and get “swimsuit ready” fast enough for summer -- only to start the whole pattern all over again once summer is over.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Just because the holidays are traditionally filled with delectable treats that will send your LDL cholesterol levels (that’s the bad kind) through the roof, who says that it has to stay that way? In that same way that some savvy parents are finding new methods to sneak healthy fruits and veggies into their kids’ daily snacks, traditional holiday recipes can be altered in many different ways that allow for a more guilt-free, yet still satisfying experience.
The first step towards understanding how to create healthy recipes to stand in for traditional holiday favorites is to recognize what is and isn’t good for your body. Most people understand that consuming too much sugar, salt, starch, and fats is not healthy. Fats, however, are a little different as there are good and bad versions. LDL fats, or low-density lipoproteins, are detrimental to your health. These proteins clog the arteries and increase a person’s risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. HDL fats, or high-density lipoproteins, help to counteract the effect of LDL proteins by moving the LDL fats away from the arteries and towards the liver where they are broken down and passed out of the body. Foods that increase your HDL cholesterol range include fish, nuts, fruits, whole grains, oatmeal, beans, yogurt, granola, orange juice, garlic, red wine, dark chocolate and green tea.
As far as ingredients such as sugar, salt, and starch...moderation is important. Many recipes can be made healthier by simply reducing the portion amounts when cooking. In addition, there are many substitutes on the market for sugar and salt that are not only healthier but they can also add a new and interesting element of taste to old standby dishes. For those concerned about the chemicals in artificial sweeteners, natural sugar alternatives such as honey and stevia are becoming more popular and can be used in a wide variety of main dishes and desserts.
Whether you tend toward holiday overindulgence or you simply want to be more consistent with your eating habits year-round, here are some healthy holiday recipes to help you kickstart your healthy, yet delicious, holiday meal plan:
Spiced Hot Chocolate: This recipe uses a small amount of sugar, light whipped cream and HDL-boosting unsalted butter to make a delicious Mexican twist on hot chocolate that’s sure to please both the kids and adults at any holiday party.
Eggplant Ricotta Bites: Lightly breaded eggplant slices (instead of starchy crackers) are sauteed, not deep-fried, making this a wonderful healthy holiday appetizer.
Slow-Cooker Braised Pork with Salsa: Served over Quinoa and cooked with salsa, this is a rich, healthy and satisfying holiday meat dish.
Cheddar and Scallion Cornbread: This traditional holiday staple adds a little extra flavor and has only 5 grams of total fat per serving.