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Happy Healthy Holidays With Less Calories!

Anne Kolker • MS, Registered Dietitian • Dec 12, 2008

holiday meal planning for a healthy family

Holiday time tends to be weight gain time for many families.  It is a time of family celebration and many parties.  
But there are some things you can do with your family to lower the amount of calories you actually consume.  There little changes that will save you a hundred calories or more and activities you can do to burn up a few extra calories.  
Here are some simple tips that can help you lower the calories you and your children take in this season.  Calories add up quickly so building in a few changes can start to really add up!  Include the children, these are habits that will help them too¡

Tips To Lower Calories:

healthy holiday Christmas meals for children
  • If you are the one cooking, limit taste testing. You don’t want to be full (and still eating) when the guests arrive. Plus, 50 calories for one taste and another 50 calories for a 2nd taste adds up to an extra 100 calories. An extra 100 calories a day over and above what your body needs adds up to a 10 lb weight gain by the end of the year.
  • Be careful of those holiday spirits – a 4 oz glass of wine is about 120 calories. Try non-alcoholic wine for the 2nd bottle and save some calories. Try drinking water in between. This can help you fill up as well and consume less food.
  • If your host offers soda to your kids, let them enjoy the one small cup (maybe split it between the siblings). Soda has a lot of sugar in it as well as caffeine. Be careful with juice too; although most juice is made of natural sugar, better to offer water throughout the day. Kids are growing but they don’t need to eat extra calories. Avoid juices like Sunny Delight© which is just a high sugar drink and has nothing to do with juice.
  • Look up some low fat versions of your favorite holiday recipes. For example, use low fat milk instead of whole milk when making mashed potatoes. Applesauce can be substituted for oil when baking. Check out or for low-fat recipes.
  • Try new side dishes instead of traditional ones: serve baked sweet potatoes or baked parsnip fries (see recipe). Also grilled asparagus or steamed artichokes can be a nice new side dish (use a non-fat dip for the artichokes or just sprinkle with lime juice).
  • Simplify your menu: offer low-fat pumpkin soup (see recipe) as a starter, followed by an entré and green veggie (sautéd spinach with garlic) and small dinner rolls.
  • It is nice to offer appetizers when guests arrive but change it up a bit this year. Provide grapes and strawberries or maybe pickles as well as pickled watermelon.
  • Choose the one food you will indulge in and enjoy it while taking small portions of the other offerings.
  • Be careful with gravy. A half a cup poured over your mashed potatoes can add another 200 calories to your meal. If that is your love, enjoy it but then skip dessert.
  • Serve a crust-less pumpkin pie this year and save calories (see recipe). Skip on offering pecan pie and serve sliced fruit along with apple or pumpkin pie.
  • If you can’t say no to leftovers such as brisket, ham, etc, bring along a small ice chest with cold gel packs. If you have a long way to drive home, you want to ensure your foods are kept cold to prevent food illness (see November’s article on food safety).
  • Add in fiber throughout your day as fiber keeps you feeling full. Try adding beans to soup or making pumpkin soup or pancakes (pumpkin is great source of fiber as well as vitamins A and C).
  • Remember to get your kids to be your assistant chef as well. While they are out of school, they’ll have some time to cook and even clean up.

Think Exercise.

  • Give yoga mats to your spouse and kids along with a yoga CD. Get the whole family doing downward dog. Or for yourself set up a date with a good friend for an exercise class together.
  • Inform your guests that there will be a walk after the mid-day brunch; tell them to show up with their running shoes and bring extra clothing to bundle up.
  • If you don’t like going to a gym, give a family gift of a Wii and purchase the exercise games such as Wii Fit.
  • Utilize your time more efficiently and order gifts on-line. You can then plan to get in some physical activity. Take advantage of the nearby high school track and try walking up and down the bleachers or run 110 and 220 races with the family.

Look At The Entire Day And Plan Around It

  • If your holiday meal is a late lunch or early dinner, start off the day with a high fiber cereal, low fat milk, and sliced bananas.
  • Or perhaps egg beaters (this is just the whites of the egg so you avoid saturated fat), one tortilla, and sliced mango.
  • Plan a family walk or hike together as well before taking off to the holiday get-together.
  • Get away from the attitude of: “Oh well, I’m going to blow it anyway today, so I might as well start the day off with sausage and high fat, high calorie egg nog.”

From the staff at Nourish Interactive, Have a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season. Wishing you lots of family time and laughter in the New Year.









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Written by Anne KolkerWritten on Dec 12, 2008Last updated on Nov 13, 2014




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