Eating smarter during the holidays

Q&A with Erica Owen, MHealthy nutrition and weight management program manager and a registered dietician

How can I make my holiday meals healthier?
There are some "stealth" ways to reduce the amount of fat and calories in your dishes. Simply substituting lighter versions of foods or using alternatives can make a big difference, and your guests are unlikely to taste the difference.

  • Applesauce or pureed prunes can be used as a substitute for butter or oil
  • Grease baking pans with cooking spray instead of butter or oil
  • Use 1% milk instead of whole milk
  • Two egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute can be substituted for one whole egg
  • Use light cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese
  • Use one cup of Splenda® for one cup of sugar

How can I lighten up traditional holiday favorites?
It's hard to imagine, much less resist, a holiday meal without traditional favorites like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and candied yams. However, there are ways to lighten up these favorites without sacrificing flavor:

  • Take the skin off your serving of turkey. Turkey breast without the skin typically has less than 1 gram of fat. With the skin, it goes up to 7 grams of fat.
  • For mashed potatoes, consider using skim milk and parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
  • Defat your gravy by refrigerating it. The fat hardens on top, for easy removal.
  • Cut smaller pieces of bread to serve.
  • Sweeten yams or sweet potatoes with apple juice and cinnamon instead of margarine and marshmallows.
  • A simple way to make green salads more nutritious and healthy, use dark greens instead of iceberg lettuce and use low saturated fat salad dressings.

What are some tips for healthy eating if I'm a guest?

  • Don't arrive too hungry; have a healthy snack beforehand so you're less likely to be tempted by unhealthy options.
  • Bring a healthy dish to pass around.
  • If it's buffet- or family-style, use a smaller plate for heavier foods. For green salads and vegetables, use a larger an entrée plate for salad and vegetables. For heavier foods, use a smaller plate.
  • Remember you're there to enjoy the company, not just the food. Focus on talking and catching up with friends and family.