Make healthy food swaps for the holidays

It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a swamp of gravy. Plates sure can fill up fast on holidays.

It’d be nice to stick to a healthy diet and pass on some of the traditional, higher-calorie dishes. But we’ve got a better idea: Make healthy swaps to your favorite holiday recipes to cut back on calories.

Kelly Marsteller, registered dietitian at Memorial Hospital, said people might consume 5,000 to 10,000 extra calories on Thanksgiving or Christmas. She said that surplus can lead to a 3- to 5-pound weight gain in a week. That’s no way to start the new year.

Marsteller said many people overindulge on holidays because they want to enjoy the foods they don’t have year-round — and because many people are used to eating larger portions.

“If you like everything that’s on the table, eat when you’re hungry, but stop when you’re comfortable,” she said. “Eat slowly, and give your body time to let you know that you’re full.”

Marsteller recommended small tweaks you can make to holiday recipes or meals. With her help, maybe you won’t need that New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

Traditional: 4 ounces of dark meat, 300 calories
Alternative: 4 ounces of skinless, white meat, 180 calories
Tip: Skip the butter when roasting your bird. Rub the turkey in a little bit of olive oil to keep it moist. For flavor, try lemon juice and seasonings, including sea salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, thyme and parsley. (Photos by Jason Plotkin for Smart)

Traditional: 2 ounces of cheese, five crackers, 305 calories
Alternative: 60 calories (1 tablespoon of dip and a handful of veggies)
Tip: Use fat-free yogurt or sour cream for dips, which can save 70 to 120 calories

Traditional: ¼ cup, 115 calories
Alternative: ½ cup nonfat gravy, 60 calories
Tip: Use fat-free turkey broth instead of the fatty runoff when making your own. “Just by doing this, you can save hundreds of calories,” Marsteller said.

Traditional: ½ cup, 175 calories
Alternative: ½ cup, 80 calories
Tip: Add plenty of vegetables to your filling, and use whole-wheat bread and whole grains, such as barley and quinoa.

Traditional: ½ cup canned, 200 calories
Alternative: ½ cup homemade, with fresh berries, 90 calories
Tip: Can the canned variety, which contains about 25 grams of sugar per serving.

Traditional: one piece, 190 calories
Alternative: one roll, 130 calories
Tip: Skip the bread because it’s something you can eat any day.

Traditional: ½ cup, 300 calories
Alternative: 170 calories
Tip: Lightly sprinkle sweet potato with brown sugar instead of using marshmallows.

Traditional: ½ cup with cream and butter, 200 calories
Alternative: ½ cup mashed red-skin potatoes, 130 calories
Tip: Leave the skin on for a fibrous boost. Use chicken broth instead of whole milk or cream.

Traditional: ½ cup, 125 calories
Alternative: ½ cup, 40 to 60 calories
Tip: If you go with the traditional, top with bread crumbs rather than fried onions to cut calories.

Traditional: ¹/8 pie, 400 calories
Alternative: ¹/8 pie, 200 calories
Tip: To slice a few more calories from pumpkin pie, use evaporated skim milk instead of whole milk, and cut back on butter by one-half and sugar by one-fourth.

Avoid dietary melt down

It takes some serious willpower not to overeat during the last few months of the year because it’s more than just one day of feasting. That Halloween candy your kids brought home could be in the house for weeks, then there’s Thanksgiving and the holiday season in December.

“It really does pack on the calories,” registered dietitian Kelly Marsteller said.

To avoid a seasonal weight gain, Marsteller recommended these tips.

•Fill up on vegetables or salad before a meal to avoid stuffing your plate or going for seconds.
Eat from a smaller plate.
•Instead of creamy casseroles, opt for sautéed, roasted or steamed vegetables.
Use less fat when cooking. Instead of 4 tablespoons of butter, go with 2.
•Replace eggs with egg substitute. You can save 45 calories and ­5 grams of fat per each egg.
•When making desserts, try sugar substitutes, such as Splenda, Stevia, honey or raw sugar. To slash some fat, swap oil for an equal portion of applesauce.

Leigh Zaleski

I'm a health features reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and healthy living blogger for No Sweat, York. Contact me with story ideas at lzaleski@ydr.com, 717-771-2101 or @leighzaleski on Twitter.

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