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10 Tips for a Healthier Holiday Season

By Posted by Matthew Wexler, Special Contributor
12/10/2012 10:29:20 AM

Whether you survived Thanksgiving by graciously passing on that second serving of pumpkin pie or by throwing your napkin to the wind for a full-out caloric splurge, you’re still in the trenches of holiday parties and festive meals. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa (and all of the traditional foods that accompany them) are right around the corner, but a few thoughtful adjustments can go a long way in making your favorite dishes and holiday preparations more health conscious.

Surprisingly, a study by The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that the average holiday weight gain is at just over one pound. Does that mean free reign to splurge for the next few weeks? Not quite. Weight is just one factor in maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle. The amount of cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat consumed can skyrocket compared to your regular eating habits, so while you may not see much change on the outside, your body is still taking the hit.

We’ve called upon two culinary experts (plus thrown in a few tips of our own) to offer sage and simple advice to revisit your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor. Alejandra Ramos is a culinary lifestyle educator and author of the award-winning blog "Always Order Dessert." While she certainly rolled her share of pasta dough during her course of study at Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy, Alejandra says it’s easier than you think to lighten up classic dishes. Chef Olivia Dupin brings her own brand of Miracle on 34th Street cred, focusing her recipe development on gluten-free cooking. Diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2009, Olivia says there’s no reason to deny yourself regardless of your dietary restrictions.

The best gift you receive this season may not be found wrapped with a big bow on top, but rather in this list of healthy, holiday-inspired tips, which will keep on giving throughout the year. 

1. Slim Down Dips and Sauces

Use creamy Greek-style yogurt as a base for easy savory or sweet dips and sauces in place of mayonnaise, sour cream, or processed store-bought dips. That classic artichoke and spinach dip will never be the same! - AR

Credit © Itemmaster

2. Eat the Peel

Save yourself time while increasing nutrients and fiber by not peeling. Some of the richest nutritional value is found in the skin of potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruit, and other holiday ingredients. - AR

Credit © Istock/Vicktar

3. A Healthier Mash

Think beyond mashed potatoes and serve pureed cauliflower, squash, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, or even beans. They pack a higher nutrient punch and have more natural flavor, which will reduce the need to load in the cream and butter. - AR

Credit © Maryse Chevriere

Click here to see the Mashed Cauliflower recipe.

4. Add Some Spice to Your Life

Use ethnic spices like smoked Spanish paprika, cumin, curry, harissa, turmeric, or Asian five-spice to add exciting flavors to classic recipes without increasing the fat or calories. Experiment with creating your own signature blends. - AR

Credit © Sxchu/nkzs

5. Try Alternative Grains

Substitute protein-packed whole grains like farro or quinoa in your favorite rice or pasta recipes. A single serving of quinoa packs eight grams of protein, while white rice contains only half that amount. - AR

Credit © Veer/Ildi

Continue to thedailymeal.com for more tips.

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