The holiday season is upon us, a time for wonderful food and celebrations. Many holiday get-togethers include lots of treats and desserts. Weeks of consuming high-sugar and salty snacks can leave you feeling drained of energy, sluggish, and bloated. This year, make a few simple holiday treat swaps to leave you feeling healthy and more satisfied.
Pick the Right Pie
When it is time for dessert, slice yourself some apple pie or better yet, pumpkin pie if available this time of year. These options are much lower in calories than the typical pecan pie. In fact, you could save a whopping 175 calories and 25 grams of carbohydrates. Forgo the whipped topping and crust to reduce the calories even more!
Let’s be clear, one piece of pie one day a year is not going to make or break your healthy eating goals. There is no need to deprive yourself of your holiday favorites. Remember all foods fit in moderation. Apples are full of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants however, in pie they are covered in sugar and butter which does add fat and added sugars. Apple pies also tend to have a double crust, which ups the calories. Pumpkin also has a good amount of fiber and the antioxidant carotenoid, which give pumpkins their orange hue. Carotenoids help battle inflammation and boost your immune system.
Dark Chocolate instead of Candy Canes
While there are plenty of high-sugar treats surrounding us during the holidays, try to stick to the healthiest type of sweet -- dark chocolate. Choosing a small serving of dark chocolate over something like a candy cane can save you 20 calories and 8 grams of carbohydrates.
Remember the darker, the better. Aim for 60 percent cocoa or higher. Dark chocolate has lower added sugar and fat than milk or white chocolate and is full of flavonoids. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the higher the flavonoids and the lower the sugar. Flavonoids help to relax blood vessels, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure. It is also good for cognition. Dark chocolate makes a great stocking stuffer too!
No-Bake Truffles Instead of Classic Holiday Cookies
Many no-bake truffle recipes include a base of dried dates for natural sweetness, instead of the traditional combination of milk and sugar. They are mixed with cocoa, nut butter, or coconut. Recipes vary but these simple ingredients can make a delicious and healthy treat that is a much better alternative than cookies made with processed white sugar and white-enriched flour.
No-bake truffles can be very rich and decadent which makes it easier to stick to a portion rather than filling up with one too many Christmas cookies. A serving of two no-bake truffles is about 120 calories, less than 10 grams of carbs, and 2 ½ grams of fiber.
Biscotti Instead of Coffee Cake
Both of these items are made with flour and sugar, but there are also some major differences. Coffee cake calls for a hefty amount of butter making it much higher in fat and calories than biscotti. Consuming biscotti will save you hundreds of calories and they tend me be lower in sugar and fat than other sweets. In addition, biscotti is often packed with heart-healthy nuts.
The almonds often found in biscotti contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Almonds have been found to be beneficial for blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Forgo the Fruitcake and Eat a Cookie Instead
Do not let the word "fruit" fool you; this classic holiday treat is not very healthy. Dried fruit and fruit juices are denser in calories than their fresh counterpart and many times can have added sugars. Consuming too many calories can make it difficult if you are trying to lose weight. Choosing a simple sugar cookie over a slice of fruitcake will save you about 80 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates. While sugar cookies still do not count as healthy, this swap will save you some calories and carbs and you will likely enjoy it more.
Choosing a cookie made with whole grains such as oatmeal or whole wheat will add more nutrition to your snack. Whole grains add extra fiber and protein. Even better than a sugar cookie would be to choose an oatmeal cookie. Oatmeal contains beta-glucan, which contains soluble fiber. Beta-glucan has been shown to help lower LDL and total cholesterol, improve blood sugar, and increase feelings of fullness.
Lastly, Snack Right
Do you crave salt instead of sugar? Many of us with salt cravings enjoy salted, mixed nuts over the holiday season. Although they are full of good fat and healthy nutrients, a one-cup serving of salted nuts can contain around 800 calories and 400 mg of sodium. Instead, choose air-popped popcorn to satisfy the salt craving that you yearn for. Or, better yet, keep shelled unsalted or lightly salted nuts on hand such as walnuts or pistachios and that will satisfy your nut craving while slowing you down.
Leave the fruitcake and candy canes for Santa this year and save yourself the unnecessary sugar and calories. It will leave you feeling lighter and more energetic, things we all need more of this time of year. Another upside to ditching these less healthy is that come January you will not be 5 or 10 pounds heavier!