Healthy holiday eats

It’s common to pick up an extra couple of pounds over the holidays, but we don’t have to give in to unhealthy patterns we had conquered during the year. Gaining a few pounds is not a catastrophe, but undoing the hard work we put into our fitness and nutrition during the whole year can set us on the wrong course in the new year ahead.

Here are some healthy alternatives to traditional holiday foods:

1. Snack on protein and veggies: Lay out a tray of veggies and skip the bread and finger sanwiches. Grab a small handful of cashew or almonds before turkey and potatoes are served to increase your protein and fiber intake and avoid overeating carbs.

2. Say no to bread stuffing: Avoiding white bread but still eating bread stuffing? Try a recipe based on brown rice and vegetables. You’ll get savory fiber instead of refined carbohidrates that usually end up smothered in salty gravy.

3. Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes: There’s a reason nutritionists recommend non-starchy vegetables. No matter how you cook them, the starch in white potatoes turns into glucose quickly in your system. A better, and tastier, carbohydrate is sweet potato. It’s nutritious and flavorful — skip the added brown sugar and marshmallows.

4. Rethink green beans: The popular recipe with high-sodium cream of mushroom and canned fried onions drowns out the goodness of the green beans. Try a new recipe that incorporates the flavors of fresh peppers and onions and maybe a bit of garlic. You can also try a broccoli or cauliflower recipe.

5. Easy as pumpkin pie: If you’re given a choice of desserts, go for the pumpkin pie. Enjoy the Vitamin A and other nutrients and have a delicious finale to a family meal.

In addition to swapping the regular recipes for more nutritious ones, consider portion sizes when you eat. Most of us overeat during the holidays, and sometimes we do it to avoid offending well-meaning relatives. Learn to say no, politely, and establish boundaries. You can always try grandma’s pecan pie later.

You can also make a point of eating breakfast instead of fasting. We often think fasting before a family gathering will help us reduce the calories we consume that day, but that’s not the case. Eating a good breakfast of egg whites and whole wheat toast, for example, can help you control your appetite and be more selective in your food and beverage choices throughout the day.

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