It's the holidays and visions of sugar cookies, eggnog, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream dance in our heads. It wouldn’t seem like a party if these foods didn’t show up.
The average American gains one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It may not seem as though small adjustments will make a difference in this tally, yet they do. It’s the cumulative effect of continual overeating that adds the pounds.
Consider substituting a few items over the next several weeks and notice how you feel. Your mental attitude and how you approach the season will shift, and you will not be the average American. You won’t gain any weight.
A substitution I make year-round is Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. I buy the full fat style. Our bodies and brains need good fat, and the creamy texture is satisfying, makes us happy, feels decadent, and we eat less. Use the Greek yogurt to make dips for vegetables, add to casseroles, top soups and chili, mix in stroganoff, and dress potatoes. By doing this, you add more protein, good bacteria for gut health, and calcium, and you consume less fat and calories than with sour cream. If the yogurt is too runny, strain it for a thicker consistency. However, there are benefits to the liquid that often separates out, so stir it in and enjoy the entire product whenever possible.
Instead of creamed spinach or green bean casserole, full of cream, butter, cream of mushroom soup, all adding up to extra saturated fat and sodium, try sautéed versions of the same vegetables. The reason many of us feel like stuffed turkeys is because of all the rich foods that we eat at one sitting. Consider switching out at least one of these traditional favorites to a simpler version by sautéing the vegetables over low heat in extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Garnish the green beans with slivered almonds for added protein and healthy fat. Garnish the sautéed spinach with diced red pepper for color and crunch.
Dips made with cream cheese not only fill you up before dinner, they also add extra calories and fat you may prefer to save for another course — like an amazing dessert. It’s important to be strategic in our choices and enjoy the feast without being miserable for days or weeks. Try hummus, salsa, or guacamole as a dip for carrots, broccoli, colorful bell peppers, and celery. Hummus provides protein and fiber. Salsa is packed with vitamin C and offers hydration. Guacamole contains heart-healthy fat, fiber and potassium. I’ve yet to have anyone attribute their weight gain and poor health to eating too many vegetables. Taking the edge off your appetite with these snacks will help prevent overeating at the meal.
Dark chocolate is a wise choice instead of the milk chocolate candies that come wrapped in those pretty boxes. Add small pieces to your fruit and nut tray for dessert. Dark chocolate satisfies the craving for a sweet treat with less sugar than milk or white chocolate, plus there are health benefits from the cocoa flavonoids.
Skip the pie crust and pour your favorite pumpkin pie filling in a pie pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve in attractive pudding glasses with fresh whipped cream. You eliminate gluten and reduce fat and carbohydrates, while still enjoying a decadent pumpkin dessert.
This holiday season, practice the art of doing just a little bit better, instead of taking the all or none approach. You’ll be amazed at how small changes add up to a healthier, happier you.
Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com.