How To: Health-ify your Holidays!

healthy holiday spread web image with presents, easter eggs and pumpkin on white background

The holidays are a great time to gather with family and celebrate with delicious food, although it can be a challenging time to eat healthy. Read on for tips from the Meant2Prevent Registered Dietitians on how to add more nutrition to your family’s holiday meals, while still enjoying your favourite festive foods!

  1. Add MORE Vegetables
  2. Include Whole Grains
  3. Add EXTRA Nutrition to your Desserts or Treats
  4. Eat Mindfully
  5. Relax and Enjoy

Tip #1: Add MORE Vegetables:

vegetables scattered on wooden table

Vegetables are a great source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While you may have a veggie side dish already planned for your holiday meal, you can also add vegetables to other parts of your meal for an added nutritional boost.

To add extra veggies to your meal try starting with a vegetable soup. You can also get creative and include veggies in your mains or grains. For example, try adding steamed cauliflower to your mashed potatoes or try this veggie-loaded chicken pot pie (it’s also a great dish to use up your leftover chicken and turkey).

Try to aim for 1/2 of your plate to be vegetables!

Try These Tasty Veggie Sides:

Tip #2: Include Whole Grains

Include whole grains and starchy veggies (starchy vegetables are foods like potatoes, corn, carrots, chickpeas, squash, parsnips, and lentils) in your meal. These are good carbohydrate sources, contain fibre, and lots of other vitamins and nutrients making them very nutritious.

Swap out white rice or pasta with whole-grain options, and choose whole wheat bread when possible. Add some zucchini noodles to regular pasta or try spaghetti squash for extra fibre and nutrients!

You can also try whole-grain crackers or pita crisps as an appetizer and use whole grain bread for stuffing (your family won’t even notice!). If you are looking for an easy bread recipe to serve with your meal, try our No Yeast Quick Bread that is made with whole wheat flour for extra fibre!

Remember, whole grains and starchy veggies should take up only 1/4 of your plate!

Try These Recipes:

Tip #3: Add EXTRA Nutrition to your Desserts or Treats

image of flour and grains on table

Classic desserts usually use white flours (with no extra fibre) and tend to be higher in sugar and saturated fat. While it’s fine to enjoy these treats in moderation (especially on special occasions), you can also add a bit of extra nutrition to your desserts by making a few healthy swaps! 

  • Add Extra Fibre
    Use whole grains or whole wheat flour, flaxseed, or rolled oats. 
    For example, substitute half of the flour in your recipe for whole wheat, or add 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed in place of 1/4 cup of the flour.  

  • Add Fruit or Veggies
    Add fresh fruit to your dessert, or even vegetables (think: carrot cake). 
    For example, ice cream with fresh fruit makes a delicious dessert! You can also make ice cream from frozen bananas! (recipe below).

  • Swap out the Saturated Fat
    Replace half of the butter or oil with puréed fruit (like apple sauce) or plain yogurt. This keeps all of the moisture that fats add but also gives a nutrition boost. 

Try These Recipes:

Tip #4: Eat Mindfully 

Holidays are special, and with all of the delicious foods around, it’s easy to not listen to our body’s cues and eat more than our bodies need.

Eating mindfully helps you to listen to your body, and can help you enjoy and savour your meal. Take your time to eat and pay attention to the flavours, smells, and colours on your plate.

Try These Mindful Eating Tips:

  1. Don’t skip meals leading up to your holiday dinner
    Eat as you normally would or approximately every 3 hours. Going into a meal super hungry can make us eat quickly and more than our bodies need.
  1. Start with a balanced plate
    ½ veggies/fruit, ¼ whole grains/starches, ¼ protein foods
  2. Eat slowly
    To help pace yourself during the meal, put down your fork between bites and be sure to chew your food thoroughly!

  3. Drink water
    Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger! Make sure to hydrate well throughout the day, and have a glass during dinner. Water is always a healthy choice, but if you are looking for ways to spice up your liquids, check out our Healthy Hydration article.

  4. Wait at least 10 minutes before going for seconds
    It can take our bodies up to 15 minutes to feel full, so pause, and wait a bit before going for a second plate! Check-in with your hunger throughout your meal.

  5. When going for seconds, load up on veggies and protein foods
    Protein (found in foods like meats, tofu, chickpeas, and beans) and fibre (found in veggies) can help us to feel more full! If you feel like a second plate and are still hungry, try to choose these foods. It’s always a good idea to eat more veggies!

  6. Enjoy your meal!
    It is the holidays after all, and it’s normal to eat too much sometimes. Enjoy the time with your family!

Tip #5: Relax and Enjoy

While it is always nice to try and eat more veggies and make foods healthier, ultimately, the holidays are about much more than just the food.

Enjoying a meal with family and friends is a great way to connect and spend quality time together. Sharing traditions can bring joy and fulfilment, which is equally as important as nutrition.

Even if the holidays look different this year, whether you have fewer people around the table, or you are celebrating virtually, enjoy this time spent with your loved ones!


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