What Does a Healthy Holiday Plate Look Like?
Most people experience the dreaded feeling of fullness after a big holiday meal. Your pants are a little snugger and your eyes want to close for a nap. But many of us also give this feeling about an hours-time before heading right back to the table.
Instead, adopting a healthier eating strategy that still allows you to eat all your favorite foods in smarter portions will help you stay on track, while still getting to enjoy yourself.
Meat and protein
The good thing about protein-heavy foods is that they can help keep you fuller for longer, and if you’re smart about the types of protein you choose, this can make for a healthy addition to your plate. Think of leaner meats, like chicken, salmon, and white meat turkey, and stick to portions no larger than your fist.
In the case of holiday foods, a vegetable is not always a vegetable. Most times we disguise these dishes with an excess of butter, cheese, or seasoning, and they can become high in fat and calories. If you’re making these sides yourself, consider letting guests add their own seasoning and toppings. Between potato dishes, sweet potatoes are generally the better option as long as they aren’t swimming in butter and brown sugar. For green veggies, stick to green beans and lightly-dressed salads instead of brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon. A portion of veggies can be up to two-fists-full.
Though fruit is sometimes harder to come by at the holiday table, you should consider adding some to your plate, if healthy options are there. Fresh fruit salad and homemade cranberry sauce (without added sugar) are great choices, just be sure to avoid jellied cranberry sauce, which is higher in calories and sugar. A ¼ cup of fruit or less is a proper serving.
Starches and grains
It’s best to fill up on protein and veggies, but if you’re craving a dinner roll on the side or a helping of stuffing, a small portion won’t hurt. Look for whole grain options or homemade stuffing, made without a lot of added salt. This should be limited to the last ¼ of your plate.
There’s no reason you can’t enjoy a little dessert during the holidays, just be mindful of your portions. If there are multiple desserts you want to sample, make sure each portion is minimal so you don’t fill up on sweets alone. Keep servings of pie, cake, ice cream, and the like to about ½ a cup—but don’t fret if you end up eating a little bit more. One serving of dessert won’t make or break your diet!