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  • Denise Scott

Healthy Holiday Eating for the Whole Family

If you are like me, cooler weather often signals a change in eating habits. Gone are the fresh fruits of the summer and light meals full of salads and vegetables, and in come the starches and refined grains - more meat and potatoes and treats.


I will give tips to help holiday-proof your eating during this tempting time and suggestions for healthy treats.

Pictured above is a savory holiday meal that includes a variety of vegetables.


Check out the Academy of Culinary Kitchen website, culinarykitchen.com, foodnetwork.com, eatingwell.com and delish.com for healthy holiday dessert ideas.

  1. Do your best to stay on schedule with your usual eating times. If that can’t be avoided, have a small snack before going out so that you won’t be as hungry, and don’t skip meals. A regular eating schedule will keep your blood sugar stable, so you won’t be as hungry for a late dinner or holiday party.

  2. If you plan to have sweets (nothing is off limits), you can cut back on other meal-time carbs such as pasta and potatoes.

  3. At a buffet, begin with vegetables and eat slowly.

  4. Maintain your regular exercise schedule through the winter and holidays.

  5. Stay on your regular sleep schedule. Studies show that people who are sleep-deprived tend to overeat - kids included.

  6. Bake, roast, and steam vegetables rather than put them in creamy casseroles.

  7. Reduce sugar intake by limiting sugar-sweetened beverages.

A plate of roasted vegetables. Fall offers many wonderful vegetables that are delicious grilled or roasted.


We all want to enjoy the holidays and some treats we only make once a year, so nothing is forbidden, but be mindful of portions. Allow your kids those sweets, but after a meal, in limited quantities, and with only a couple choices. If you have concerns about your child’s weight and want to control calories but still allow treats, then exchange calories as mentioned. Save some of the carbohydrate calories for the sweets later. Better yet, find healthy sweets with fiber, less sugar, and lower fat as in #5 below.


The holidays are a great time to incorporate fiber-rich food into meals, especially beans and vegetables. Continue serving healthy snacks each day, reserving the sweets for once daily.


When baking, consider the following:

  1. You can decrease the sugar by ¼ to ⅓ in most recipes without sacrificing taste.

  2. Make substitutions for some of the sugar and fat with fruit purees, applesauce, mashed bananas, and powdered milk. Look for unsweetened jams, jellies, and canned fruit packed in water, not syrup, when these are needed for recipes.

  3. Make sweets with dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and figs.

  4. Make muffins with fruit and vegetables.

  5. Find recipes online that use vegetables such as chickpeas, sweet potatoes, avocados, and black beans for cookies, breads, brownies, and cakes.

  6. Add extra sweet spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

Decorated holiday cookies. Holiday treats should be enjoyed but in limited amounts and recipes can be tweaked to make them healthier.


Check out these websites for healthy holiday dessert ideas:

culinarykitchen.com

foodnetwork.com

eatingwell.com

delish.com/holiday-recipes


Reducing sugar and fat content with healthy substitutions is better than using sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners. Fruit and vegetable substitutions are healthful without compromising flavor.


In summary, staying on track with an eating and sleeping schedule, regular exercise, and limiting sweets will help you maintain good habits during the holidays and throughout the year.


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