The good news: the average American only gains one pound during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The bad news: for most Americans, that becomes a year-over-year, holiday-to-holiday pattern, and they never shed the weight. This begs the question: how can we avoid this one extra pound altogether?
Easy. All it takes is a plan. And, conveniently, we’ve drafted one up for you.
The Ultimate Healthy Holiday Survival Guide
Let’s start here: waiting until the New Year to make your goals a reality isn’t a thing. And yeah, while it’s not the most jolly thing in the world, a healthy holiday takes a little bit of discipline. Let’s start with the biggest perpetrator of the unhealthy holiday: food.
Foods to Avoid
Calories: 344 calories per cup
It’s creamy, it’s delicious, and it’s full of unhealthy fats and sugars. When it’s spiked, it’s even worse for you. Ditch the eggnog this year and trade it in for it’s soy alternative, which clocks in at 80 calories per serving.
Calories: 99 calories per pancake
99 calories doesn’t seem like a lot, but who eats latkes in moderation? To make this Hanukkah staple a little more heart healthy, forgo its original fried state and opt for the baked ones instead. Making them yourself? Use as little oil as possible.
Calories: 123 calories per cup
Gravy is sneaky: it’s high in fat, salt, and sugar and adds calories to already dense food like meat and potatoes. Definitely skipped the canned version of this holiday staple altogether, and if you simply must have gravy this year, make it yourself with this recipe (and don’t forget to skim the fat off of the pan drippings).
Calories: 503 calories per slice
This one’s a doozy! Aside from the fact that pie has no nutritional value, you’re getting sugar, unhealthy carbs and fats all in one small 500 calorie package. Avoid at all costs. Instead, get your pecan fix with these adorable (and healthy) stuffed apples.
Green Bean Casserole
Calories: 151 calories per cup
Just because there are veggies doesn’t mean this is the holiday staple to lean in on. Made with cream-based cream of mushroom soup and more salt than they put on the roads after your last snowstorm, this is one you’re going to want to make yourself if you want to chow down guilt-free (or better yet: just eat green beans).
Foods to Gobble Up
Fiber, color, flavor, and flair — sweet potatoes are good for you without making you feel like you’re skimping on flavor. Avoid brown sugar, but if you want an extra smack of sweetness, bake with honey and cinnamon. They make you feel full and help regulate your blood sugar, so consider food strategy and serve them as an appetizer.
Cinnamon is the best. It’s loaded with antioxidants, has anti inflammatory properties, may reduce the risk of heart disease, and is also extremely delicious, among other things. Top your healthy stuffed apples with it, or throw it in your tea in lieu of sugar, or put it on literally everything you eat this season.
Light Meat Turkey
Skip the skin and gravy (or add a dash of your homemade version from above!) and opt for turkey instead of beef or ham. It’s a lean protein that will keep you full and rev your metabolism during digestion.
What, you thought we weren’t going to let you eat ANY sugar? Dark chocolate is loaded with health benefits and is also the perfect hold-over sweet treat to help you stave off cravings for that fatty dessert sitting in front of you.
Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating
Keep the Trimmings to the Tree
You can live without the fatty nutty, creamy, buttery, salty toppings hiding in your gravy and whipped cream. Stick with the staples and stay in your pant size.
Drink a lot of water and only a little alcohol. A glass of red wine here and there won’t hurt, but booze (and the juices it’s mixed in) packs on the calories and generally does nothing for your body. Downing a glass of water when you get to the party, on the other hand, will curb your appetite and keep you fresh for family time the next day (plus, you know, water is really, really good for you).
Don’t Skip Meals
Holidays mean travel, but keeping your mealtimes consistent is just as important as moderation. Skipping meals early in the day can cause you to binge during a party and can ramp up your cravings, lower your blood sugar, and make you cranky. And no one wants to be that guy.
Bonus Tips & Recipes
It’s impossible to avoid dessert. Here are some healthy dessert recipes so you can cheat without indulging:
Looking for the perfect gift for a loved one looking to get their fitness back on track? Try something like a healthy subscription box or a free personal training session to help them get excited about fitness again! Have a healthy holiday from our family to yours.