Planning the Holiday Meals
Holiday meals can mean holiday headaches. Unfortunately we don’t all live in a Hallmark movie and every holiday meal isn’t filled with perfect moments.
But, you can enjoy the time with a few decisions prior to the big meal.
Breakdown the Holiday Meal
First, take a moment to sit and reflect on your holiday meals. What foods will be present? Which foods are triggers for you? What will the full day look like? Will you be moving or exercising or just sitting around?
Second, think about which foods really mean something to you during a holiday meal. Is there no holiday meal without pumpkin pie or grandma’s cranberries? Holiday meals don’t need to be a reason to overindulge but they are a reason to enjoy the foods that have a special place in our person history.
Third, think about how to overcome any issues. Can you go for a walk before or after the holiday meal? Can you bring a healthier substitute?
Before the Holiday Meal
It’s always best to have a game plan when it comes to holiday meals. Try not to show up hungry. Have a small but nutrient dense meal or large snack before arriving. This way all those guilty pleasures won’t be so appealing. If you aren’t sure about the menu, offer to bring a dish to share. Your dish will ensure that your dietary needs are met. If you’re in a hurry, pick up a shrimp cocktail platter or vegetable tray at a grocery store. These are high quality, low calorie appetizers.
Most families have recipes that have been passed down for generations. Often these additions to the holiday meal tend to be high fat, high calorie recipes. I’m just going to be honest here, unless you’ve worked through the recipe and found ways to make it healthier and just as tasty, I feel these sacred dishes should be left alone. Trying to give a beloved family recipe a healthy makeover usually means it just doesn’t live up to original – or worse, the memory. Since holiday meals are rare, just honor the original recipe and savor a few bites. Usually the first bite or two are all you need to enjoy.
Stick to the Basics
The basics of holiday meals – roast meats, sweet potatoes (without added sugar), vegetables grilled, steamed or baked – these are all very healthy. Try to make your first plate during holiday meals full of vegetables. Unfortunately holiday meals can be a time when well-intention people try to push foods on us or question our choices. It’s okay to say no . . . and you don’t owe them an explanation.
Possible Substitutions for Holiday Meals
If you’re the cook, test out a few healthier options ahead of the holiday meals. But, again, careful with any sacred dishes. A quick 30-second blanched spinach is much healthier than creamed spinach. Some people like mashed steamed cauliflower in place of mashed white potatoes. Roasted vegetables or baked sweet potatoes instead of sweet potato casserole. Skip the green bean casserole and for quick sauteed green beans. I probably don’t need to write anything about whatever that can of “cranberry sauce” is, please try cranberry relish. Stuffing doesn’t have to include bread (especially white bread); try whole grain bread or wild rice stuffing. Sparkling water spritzers or kombucha can replace beer or wine. Cinnamon spice tea, one of my all time favorites, may be able to take the place of hot chocolate. Baked apples could replace apple pie. Pumpkin custard could replace pumpkin pie.
Holiday Meals are Only ONE Meal
Remember the most important part of holiday meals is enjoying the time with people; the holiday meal is just the avenue. Holidays are supposed to be fun! It’s okay to appreciate a few favorite dishes in moderation and skip the other items. One meal will never totally derail your nutrition plan.
Give yourself permission to enjoy holiday meals without regret. Even if you do overindulge, get back on track with the next meal.