Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Easter Sunday, Diwali, Eid, Hanukkah or Christmas, we all celebrate something during the year.
The holiday season is a great time to feast with family or friends. That can also mean overindulging in foods that tend to be on the unhealthy side.
Enjoying everything in moderation is one way to ensure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet (and still treating yourself every now and then). Even so, there are some simple changes you can make to keep your healthy eating habits on track.
Try some of these holiday food swaps...
Swap meat for vegetarian stuffing
Christmas stuffing made with sausage meat and a packet mix is usually high in salt. You can reduce your salt intake by trying a vegetarian version made from tasty chestnuts, onion, fresh herbs and rice instead.
Swap white flour for wholewheat flour
No Hanukkah celebration is complete without sweet and eggy Challah bread. Using wholewheat flour instead of white flour in your recipe will still allow you to enjoy its light, soft texture, whilst also boosting your intake of healthy fibre.
Swap candied sweet potatoes for roasted ones
Sweet potatoes are high in nutrients, but the Thanksgiving tradition of baking them with butter, sugar and marshmallows adds a lot of processed sugar to the dish. Try keeping the sweet potatoes simple by baking or roasting them in just a little olive oil. You can always add herbs like rosemary or some cracked black pepper for extra zing.
Or, for a change, try butternut squash as an alternative. It’s high in vitamin A and low in calories.
Swap ghee or butter for unsaturated oils
Lots of delicious Diwali foods like samosas and laddoos are cooked with saturated fats like ghee and butter. Using small amounts of unsaturated fats – like rapeseed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil or corn oil – will still create a tasty treat, and may help lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the body at the same time.
Keep mashed potato simple
It’s so tempting to make mashed potato creamier by adding butter, cheese and cream. Instantly lower the fat content by making it with just a dash of milk and butter. You could also add some extra flavour with shredded spring onions, peas, black pepper or lightly fried crushed garlic cloves.
Swap white rice for brown rice
Biryani is one of the tastiest courses when it comes to Eid celebrations. Want to make this dish a little healthier? Opt for whole grain brown rice instead of white. It has a nuttier flavour and provides fibre, as well as several vitamins and minerals, which may help keep you fuller for longer.
Swap high-fat lamb for leaner chicken
Lots of people choose slow-cooked lamb as the centrepiece for their Easter Sunday lunch. To make things lighter, try roasting a chicken with fresh lemon slices and lots of garlic instead, which may help you eat 15g less of saturated fat. Cutting off any visible fat from your cooked meat can also help.
Swap traditional desserts for low-sugar options
Pecan pie, gulab jamun, baklava, Christmas pudding, kaju katli and apple crumble are all traditional desserts when it comes to the holiday season, but they’re also high in sugar.
To cut back, go for something like baked fruit with warm spices and yoghurt, dried fruits and nuts, seasonal sliced fruit platters – for example sliced oranges dusted with cinnamon – or replace processed sugars in your recipes with natural honey. It is always worth asking friends and family for their healthier versions of holiday favourites, too.
- packet mixes for things like stuffing can be high in salt, so try making your own
- wholewheat ingredients like brown rice and wholewheat flour are higher in fibre than white versions of the same food, which can keep you fuller for longer
- try using unsaturated fats like olive oil and rapeseed oil in your cooking, which can reduce inflammation and lower chlestrol in the body, instead of saturated options like butter or ghee
- if you're choosing meat, leaner options include chicken or turkey, rather than high-fat options like beef or lamb
- using natural sweetners like honey instead of processed sugar in your sweet treats can reduce calories and keep your blood sugar levels in check