Healthy food swaps during the holidays can help cut calories and gain weight | News

With Christmas and New Year celebrations approaching, many people are looking forward to enjoying the food usually served during the holidays, even if they can’t have a big family gathering this year. HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial and HSHS Medical Group’s Joslin Diabetes Center encourage members of the community to enjoy their holiday meal, while also making healthy choices.

“The key is to remember to control portion if there are certain foods that you can’t imagine not eating. Try getting just a small sample instead of filling your plate,” says Tracy Dennis, MS, RDN, LDN, clinical dietitian with Joslin Diabetes Center Group HSHS Medical. “And making some ‘healthy swaps’ can be the difference between maintaining your weight and gaining a few pounds over the holidays.”

HSHS St. Anthony’s and Joslin Diabetes Center of the HSHS Medical Group recommend the following healthy food swaps that will allow you to continue indulging while avoiding certain foods that are high in fat and calories:

1. Replace sweet potatoes with roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet without adding extra sugar and calories. Brushing them with a little canola or olive oil brings out their natural sweetness.

2. Replace dark turkey meat with white meat. The dark meat in turkey (legs and thighs) contains twice the fat of breasts and wings (white meat) and about 40% more calories.

3. Replace dips made with sour cream and mayonnaise with dips made with low-fat yogurt. When dipping, replace the sour cream or mayonnaise in the recipe with plain low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt. By comparison, an ounce of sour cream contains about 60 calories, while an ounce of plain fat-free Greek yogurt contains only 15 to 20 calories.

4. Replace traditional broth with low-fat broth. You can make a healthy and delicious broth with fat-free turkey broth, flour and spices to taste. If you still want to use the drip from the roasting pan, remove the fat first with a fat separating cup or by placing the drip in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes and then slathering the fat on top of it.

5. Replace the green bean casserole with fresh green beans. Try steaming fresh green beans and sprinkling them with chopped almonds to save calories. Create a balanced plate by filling half the plate with vegetables and eating the vegetables first to fill up on these lower-calorie foods so that you’re less likely to eat higher-calorie foods.

6. Replace pork with low-sodium pork. A 3-ounce serving of conventional, ready-made ham contains approximately 1,300 milligrams of sodium, which is more than half the recommended daily amount. Offering low-sodium pork and keeping salt off the table helps balance fluids in your body. If you can make pork at home, soak it in cold water overnight or boil it in hot water for 10 minutes to reduce the sodium level.

7. Swap pecan pie for pumpkin pie. Even with a little whipped cream on a pumpkin pie, you’ll cut calories and sugar by at least a third by choosing pumpkin pie (300 calories per slice) over pecan pie (500 calories per slice). You can also save calories in any pie by not eating the crust because that’s where the most fat is.

Besides these healthy swaps, it’s also helpful:

• Eat a healthy and light breakfast so you don’t starve yourself before the holiday dinner and then overeat.

• Drink plenty of water before a meal to keep your stomach full and after eating to promote healthy digestion.

• Incorporate physical activity into your vacation to help increase your metabolism.

For more tips on healthy eating for the holidays, visit


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