An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Eat well with traditional, healthy holiday ideas

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Most people have a favorite holiday tradition. Gift exchanges, holiday parties and family gatherings are all a traditional part of the holiday season. If you plan on having your own version of the "Griswold fun, old-fashioned family Christmas," then a large meal will also be on the agenda.

One of the main reasons losing weight is always on the list of Top 10 New Year's Resolutions is because of the extra pounds people pack on during the holidays. If you're one of the many people who find themselves in front of a traditional holiday dinner on more than one occasion, those extra pounds can be compounded.

According to My Fitness Pal, a traditional holiday dinner consisting of eight ounces of turkey, one cup of mashed potatoes, a half a cup of gravy, one cup of green bean casserole, one cup of sweet potato casserole, two slices of cranberry sauce and one slice of apple pie ala mode runs 1,780 calories. That's without bread, beverage or that second helping of your favorite item.

So how can you enjoy a traditional dinner without severely expanding your waistline? Tiffany Brunton, Schriever Air Force Base dietician, offered the following five suggestions to make your holiday meal healthier.

Portion control

One of the easiest ways to cut holiday calories is through portion control. Not just in how much you put on your plate, but also what you put on your plate.

"The biggest thing I say is choose your favorite item," Brunton said. "So if there's something your family makes only at Christmas-time, go ahead. But if there's something like a dinner roll or a chocolate chip cookie, those are probably things you can have any time of the year. So choose the things that are the most special."

Additionally, Brunton suggests cutting the fat wherever possible and limiting starches. For example, if you have both mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes as options, choose one or the other, or reduce the portion size of each so combined they equal a full serving.

Make from scratch

You can cut down some of the calories on your favorite dishes by making them from scratch instead of buying a prepackaged version. Substituting plain green beans for the green bean casserole is one way, but if you really want the casserole, make the base from scratch using milk and butter instead of a cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup.

"Lightening the load, whether it's cutting the fat in half in most recipes or making from scratch instead of boxed items, those are the easiest ways to reduce calories," Brunton said.

Eat lean meat (without the skin)

Most traditional holiday dinners will feature a turkey or ham as the main entrée, or even a Cornish game hen. If you're looking for the healthiest option, turkey is the way to go, with the white meat as the leanest option. If Thanksgiving has you turkeyed-out, ham is the next best option.

"The dark meat of the turkey and ham are pretty similar in calories and fat content, the ham is going to be a little higher in sodium, naturally," Brunton said. "Cornish hens are a very fatty bird, so it's going to be much higher caloric [option] than the turkey. Definitely, if you're trying to stay healthy, consuming only the white meat of the turkey would be your healthiest option."

Limit alcohol

This is especially important if you're visiting and going to drive home later. From a health standpoint, limiting your drinks to no more than two in one sitting is a good rule of thumb.

If you are trying to watch your weight, Brunton recommended  three or less drinks per week.

Find a way to be active

Engaging in some physical activity the day you plan to have your meal is a good way to reduce the negative impact of the high calorie meal.

"Even if it's just going for a walk before dinner time, if it's going for a 30-minute walk as a family right after, get things moving a little bit," Brunton said. "You're probably not going to be able to mitigate all the damage, but getting at least a little bit of activity in there can help against some of those calories."

It's not necessary to entirely eliminate all the things about your meal, or meals, that you look forward to, but Brunton stressed there are ways to prevent packing on too many extra pounds.

"Enjoy the things that you want to," she said. "You can look for healthier versions of things, but most of the time we like our traditional foods. Just keep things in proportion and only eat the [unhealthy] things that are special."
Previous Story
Next Story