10 Easy Tips for Healthy Eating — During the Holidays and Anytime!

Healthy holiday eating. Is it possible?

Yes. It’s not only possible, it’s quite simple to do, according to Gayle Jennings, MS, RD, LD, Clinical Dietitian III/Outpatient Dietitian at Memorial Medical Center. Here are Jennings’ top 10 ideas for healthy eating at the holidays or any time:

1. Cook more often.

As a society, we tend to eat about one-third of our meals from restaurants. That equals one meal every day. Take the time to plan, purchase and prepare meals at home. That way, you have more control over what you eat and how the food is prepared.

2. Make sure your kitchen is adequately stocked.

In order to cook at home, you need the right ingredients.  

Here are some suggested ingredients to keep on hand: frozen vegetables, fresh fruit, canned fruit with no sugar, bagged and/or chopped lettuce, fresh potatoes, baby carrots, frozen and unbreaded fish and chicken breasts (check for added sodium), whole-wheat pasta, quick-cooking brown rice, tomatoes and dried beans, canned with little or no added salt.

Also include high-fiber, whole-grain cereal, old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, 100-percent whole-wheat bread, low-sodium chicken or beef broth, skim or 1-percent milk, reduced-fat shredded cheese, nonstick cooking spray, reduced-sodium spaghetti sauce, olive or canola oil, red wine or balsamic vinegar, and an assortment of dried herbs and spices.

3. Increase flavor without the salt.

More than 75-percent of the sodium consumed by an average American adult is from foods that have had salt or high-sodium ingredients added during the processing or preparation. Fast foods and commercially prepared items are especially high in sodium. Add flavor using herbs, spices or garlic. Gradually decrease the amount of sodium you intake.

4. Reduce the total fat.

Swap fat sources: Use applesauce and other fruit purees to replace some of the fat in baked goods. If a recipe calls for one cup oil, use 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce. 

Another simple substitution is using two egg whites in place of each whole egg to reduce the fat. 

Replace high-fat proteins with leaner choices, use pork tenderloin instead of pork chops or beef round or sirloin, instead of a T-bone or rib-eye steak. Choose 93-percent or leaner ground beef or turkey instead of hamburger or regular ground beef.

5. Pick healthier fats.

Opt for plant sources of fat, rather than animal sources. The amount of saturated fat in animal fats is much higher than plant sources and the unsaturated fat is higher in plant sources. 

A few good fat choices include: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, reduced fat soft tub margarine, avocadoes, nuts and seeds, and all in moderation.

6. Decrease the sugar.

Sugar in many recipes can be reduced by 1/4 to 1/3 cup. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, reduce that amount to 3/4 cup or even 2/3 cup. The sweetness in food can be enhanced with spices and flavorings such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg or vanilla extract if you find that reducing the sugar changes the flavor.

7. Explore sugar substitutes.

Many options for sugar substitutes are available and can be used to replace sugar in some items. For cakes, cookies, muffins or quick breads, replace only part of the sugar with low-calorie sweetener; otherwise, the appearance and texture may be affected.  

Low-calorie sweeteners may be used to replace all of the sugar in foods when it is used just for taste.  Try them in items such as beverages, sauces, marinades, frozen desserts, puddings, custards, and fruit fillings for pies or cobblers.

8. Incorporate more fiber.

Use whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and high-fiber cereals.  Extra fiber can be incorporated into casseroles and soups buy adding extra vegetables or dried beans, or switching out refined grains, like white rice or pasta with brown rice, wild rice, quinoa or whole-grain pasta.

9. Make gradual changes.

Take small steps over time and incorporate changes into your meals and recipes. By making gradual, small changes, your taste buds will adjust to the healthier foods.

10. Plate up your meal right.

Switch out the large “platters” at meals for a more reasonably sized plate.  A 9- or 10-inch dinner plate is just right. Visualize your plate into four equal quarters with two sections filled with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter for the grain, starch or starchy vegetable and the other quarter for the protein.

Remaking recipes and revamping meals does not have to be over complicated.  Many “good for you foods,” such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources or protein, can be prepared simply, yet result in healthy and flavorful dishes. 

Happy Holidays!