Holiday Nutrition TipsIt’s the most wonderful time of year again! Where holiday parties and other celebratory get-togethers seem endless – where Food, Glorious Food, calls us to gather and enjoy.  And that is how it should be! For, what is Christmas without grandma’s sticky buns – or Hanukka without Bobi’s crispy latkes?! Food brings us together because it’s comforting, and in unwinding we are able to take stock of the things and people we are thankful for.

This time of year can also be stressful, however, as healthy food options fly right out the window in the face of traditional favorites. And the rain and cold don’t help matters- “a crisp green salad…. or some baked mac and cheese?” The answer: Duh . So yes, it is that time of year again, where dieting and choosing healthy food can feel extremely difficult.  But do not fear! This holiday season, take back some of the control AND enjoy your hearty casserole!  It’s really as simple as substituting healthier ingredients for the ones high in fat and calories. For example, take scalloped potatoes – Healthy Meal ExamplesA 10 oz serving  has 378 calories, 20 g of fat, and 78 g of cholesterol – and that’s just a side dish!  Add some sweet potato casserole, green beans and fried onions, baked honey ham, creamed spinach, warm buns & butter- what have you, and, well, what you have is an entire day’s worth of calories sitting on your dinner plate.  (And, before we move on, let’s be real:  indulging in good food during the holidays is not a bad thing.  But, for those who are determined to stay on track this holiday season, indulging can be dangerous ground – especially when there are more than just a one or two opportunities to do so.)   But when we substitute fat-free milk, for whole milk, or omit ham altogether, we can come up with a recipe that we can enjoy without the guilt.  For example:

Scalloped Potatoes

                                                                                                                                                                                      5-6 meduim potatoes, pared and sliced
                                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 cup butter                                                –  instead use: 2 TBSP butter and olive oil spray
                                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 cup flour                                                   – instead use: no flour
                                                                                                                                                                                      salt and pepper to taste
                                                                                                                                                                                      3 cups whole milk                                          – instead use: 1 cup reduced fat milk
                                                                                                                                                                                      3 cups ham, cooked                                      – instead use: herbs like nutmeg, thyme, garlic, sage
                                                                                                                                                                                     1 large onion, chopped
                                                                                                                                                                                     1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded           – instead use: 3/4 cup reduced-fat cheddar

With those alterations we end up with a casserole that has 180 calories and 5 g fat in an 8 oz serving!  That is more than half of the caloric amounts in the original recipe!  Smart cooking is fun, and it is our specialty at Farm to Fit.  Chef Jeremy is constantly thinking about what substitutions he can use to whip up delicious, healthy versions of all our favorites.  Some of his suggestions are:

1.  Substitute egg whites for eggs – this cuts down on the calories, fat, and cholesterol without costing the protein

            2.  Saute your onions in stock instead of fat

3.  Substitute applesauce or low-fat sour cream for butter or oil

4.  Consider roasting your vegetables with a scant amount of olive oil instead of sauteing them in fat

5. Trim fat off of your meats before you cook them – also, skim fat off the top of soups

6. Substitute turkey for beef in burgers, casseroles, chili, etc. to reduce calories and fat

7.  Look for 95/5 (beef to fat ratio) beef at the store – most ground beef is 80/20

8.  Use stevia in place of refined sugar – it is calorie-free!

9.  Substitute zucchini, eggplant, squash, etc. for pasta or any other starchy carb – you might surprise yourself at how good it tastes!

The holidays are the perfect time to try some of these ‘tricks of the trade’.  With some conscious effort, eating can be stress and guilt free!  Along with ingredient substitutions, here are some other healthy eating tips to keep you on track these next few weeks (and beyond)!

1.  Don’t skip breakfast!  You’ll be less likely to over-indulge later

2. Stay hydrated – it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger

3. Choose wisely – Pick the foods you only get to eat a few times a year, don’t waste calories on things you may get to eat any day of the year!  Fill your plate with lower calorie items first, such as salads, then add smaller portions of richer foods.

4.  Limit intake of alcohol – A glass of wine has 125 calories!

5. Plan activities with family and friends that don’t focus on food –  walking, sledding, skating, shopping, games, crafts, etc.