With Christmas and New Year celebrations approaching, many people are looking forward to enjoying the food typically served during the holidays, even if they won’t be able to have a large extended family gathering this year. HSHS St. Mary's is encouraging community members to enjoy their holiday meal, while also making healthy choices. 

If there are certain foods you can’t imagine missing, the key is remembering portion control – try just having a small sampling rather than filling your plate. It’s also a good idea to make some ‘healthy swaps’ which can mean the difference between maintaining your weight and gaining a few pounds.

HSHS St. Mary's recommends the following healthy food swaps that will allow you to still indulge while avoiding some high fat and high calorie foods:

  1. Swap sweetened sweet potatoes with roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet without adding extra sugar and extra calories to them. Roasting them brushed with a little canola or olive oil brings out their natural sweetness.
  2. Swap dark meat turkey for white meat. The dark meat on a turkey (legs and thighs) has about twice the fat of breast and wings (white meat) and about 40% more calories.
  3. Swap dips made with sour cream and mayo with dips made from low-fat yogurt. When making dip, replace the sour cream or mayo in the recipe with low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt. As a comparison, an ounce of sour cream has about 60 calories, while an ounce of nonfat plain Greek yogurt has only 15 to 20 calories.  
  4. Swap traditional gravy with a low-fat gravy. You can make a tasty healthier gravy with fat-free turkey broth, flour and seasonings to taste. If you still want to use the drippings from the roasting pan, remove the fat first with a fat-separator cup or by placing the drippings in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes and then skimming off the fat on top.
  5. Swap the green bean casserole with fresh green beans. Try steaming fresh green beans and sprinkling them with slivered almonds to save on calories. Build a balanced plate by filling half the plate with vegetables and eating your vegetables first to fill up on these lower calorie foods so you’ll be less likely to eat the higher calorie ones.
  6. Swap ham with low sodium ham. A 3-ounce serving of traditional pre-made ham contains nearly 1,300 milligrams of sodium, which is more than half of the recommended daily allowance. Serving a low sodium ham, and keeping the saltshaker off the table, will help balance fluids in your body. If you can prepare ham at home, soak it in cold water overnight, or boil it in hot water for 10 minutes, to reduce the sodium level. 
  7. Swap pecan pie with pumpkin pie. Even with a dollop of whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, you’ll cut calories and sugar by at least a third by choosing pumpkin pie (300 calories per slice) over pecan pie (500 calories per slice). You can also save calories on any pie by not eating the crust as that is where most of the fat resides.

Besides these healthy swaps, it is also helpful to:

  • Eat a light, healthy breakfast so you don’t starve yourself before your holiday dinner and then overindulge. 
  • Drink plenty of water before the meal to keep your stomach full and after the meal to promote healthy digestion. 
  • Build physical activity into your holiday to help boost your metabolism.

For more healthy eating tips for the holidays, visit cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/holidays-healthy-eating.

Media Contact

Andrew Dilbeck

HSHS Illinois
Office: 217-464-5610

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