DASH-ing through the Holidays with Healthy Holiday Eating
The holidays are full of family, friends and festive gatherings. Healthy eating during the holidays may seem challenging but it doesn’t always mean foregoing your favorite desserts and sweets. With a few small changes, it is possible to maintain healthy eating habits during the holiday season.
Baking for the holidays? Small changes can make desserts healthier and reduce calories without sacrificing taste.
We have some simple substitutions that can make baked goods healthier or lower calorie counts.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan promotes a heart-healthy eating style for life. DASH requires no special foods. The plan encourages eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils. It provides shopping tips, menus, and recipes to help you limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils. It also encourages limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
5 Ways to Make Holiday Baking Healthier!
- Substitute Whole-Wheat. Flour Most recipes that call for flour can substitute wheat flour in a 1 to 1 measurement. Wheat flour has more fiber and helps to slow digestion and increase fullness. Not all recipes can take a wheat flour substitute due to coloring or taste concerns. Sugar cookies, for example, need white flour to keep their traditional coloring.
- Cut the Sugar. Holiday desserts often call for sugar, honey, maple syrup, and molasses. These sweeteners can raise your blood sugar. For many recipes, you can reduce the amount of sugar recommended without changing the taste. Sugar substitutes can also be used as alternatives to sugar and provide sweetness to desserts and foods without adding a lot of extra calories. In some cases, a sugar substitute can replace half of the sugar called for in a recipe.
- Cut the Saturated Fat. Your body needs healthy fats for energy and other functions. But too much saturated fat can cause cholesterol to build up in your blood vessels. Saturated fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. In most baking recipes, you can reduce the saturated fat (butter, shortening, oil) by half without compromising your dessert. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, try ½ cup instead. You can replace the remaining ½ cup with an alternative ingredient to ensure your dessert has the same texture. Some replacements can be fat-free sour cream, low-fat buttermilk, orange juice, low-fat yogurt, applesauce, or low-fat cream cheese.
- Use Light Products. Substituting lower-fat and lower-sugar ingredients in your baking recipes can make them healthier and lower in calories. You can substitute sour cream with low-fat sour cream, light cream cheese for regular, and low-sugar jams and jellies for the regular brand. Other quick substitutes include light whipped cream and fat-free half-and-half.
Other Tips to Keep You on the Track to Healthy Eating
- Control your portions. A small adjustment in portion size can help you avoid overeating. One way to control your portions by putting food on individual plates instead of putting large serving dishes on your table. Try eating snacks in a small container instead of the original package. You can also replace candy dishes with bowls of fruit or vegetables.
- Cut down on overeating and snacking. Making a point to be mindful of what and when you are eating can help you avoid overeating and excessive snacking. Snacks are plentiful and can be consumed in larger quantities because their small size is often overlooked. For example: chocolate kisses (22 calories each), peppermint bark candies (66 calories each), toffee (67 calories), fudge (70 calories on square), and sugar cookies (113 calories each plain). Prepare healthy snacks in advance so they are available if you feel hungry between meals. Move the healthier food to the front at eye level. Store tempting foods, like cookies, chips, or ice cream, out of direct eyesight.
- Don’t have dessert at every dinner. Try to split a dessert with a family member or friend or avoid having a dessert at every meal. Check out these healthy eating tips and resources to create a holiday eating plan.
- Remember your mental health. During this holiday time, don’t forget about your mental health! The holidays can be a stressful time, which can contribute to overeating. Be sure to stay aware of your stress levels, and check out these resources for good mental health and ways to reduce stress during the holidays!