Children's Hospital Colorado

Healthy Eating Tips and Recipes for the Holidays

A boy wearing a blue button shirt over a gray henley sits at a wooden dinner table and holds cooked peas and carrots on his spoon over a bowl full of peas, carrots and broccoli. There is also a glass of water on the table.

The average American adult gains about one to two pounds per year; nearly one pound of that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Most people don't lose this weight, which means many adults gain five to 10 pounds over five years.

So how can you prevent this from happening year after year? Children's Colorado nutrition experts Sherry Archuleta and Janine Higgins provide some tips and recipes on how to keep the pounds off this holiday season.

Healthy eating tips

  1. Share with a friend. Buddy up with someone before the holiday party or meal. Agree to share a serving of holiday favorites that are high in calories, fat and sugar. You don't have to say "no" but try just saying "yes" to less.
  2. Water, water, water. To enjoy holiday foods, pass on beverages heavy in calories, like eggnog, punch, hot cocoa and alcohol. Try to decrease or eliminate high-calorie coffee beverages (imagine the money you could save, too). Drink a big glass of water before sitting down to dinner or heading to the party. Many of us mistake thirst for hunger. Before you eat something when you start to drag or feel hunger, drink water first. Often this is what your body needs - not more calories.
  3. Get outside and exercise. A good walk in the brisk, cold air energizes you and can curb your appetite.
  4. Make time to rest. We often get worn out this time of the year. When we don't get enough rest we often try to re-energize by eating. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.
  5. Be the healthy host. Consider serving lower calorie/fat/sugar holiday favorites to your guests. See the fun cooking tips below.

Healthy recipe ideas

To keep your weight in check, apply some of these easy recipe modifications to your favorite holiday dishes. Here, our experts provide four recipe substitutions, found online, to help cut calories without sacrificing flavor.

  1. Black beans for flour. Our experts swear these black bean and dark chocolate chip brownies are better than those at the grocery store. Most people find this idea a bit strange, but it's unlikely anyone will notice the difference. In this recipe, black beans replace flour, which increases the fiber content and drastically decreases calories. One cup of flour has 450 calories per cup; black beans have just 200 calories per cup. The substitution is a one-to-one ratio, so it's easy to replace flour in any baked good recipe, with an equal measurement of rinsed, pureed, black beans. Check out this low-cal brownie recipe.
  2. Bananas for butter. Almighty Butter vs. Humble Banana. Would you ever imagine substituting the butter in Grandma's cookie recipe? Think again, because this is a simple way to cut calories without sacrificing taste and texture (and a good way to use the bananas that come back home in your kids' lunchboxes). One half cup of butter has 814 calories while the same amount of mashed banana is only 100 calories. This substitution ratio is one-to-one so you can substitute mashed banana for butter in all your favorite baked recipes. Test this out with oatmeal cookies with banana.
  3. Greek yogurt for sour cream. What's better than a pile of creamy mashed potatoes? But adding even one ounce of sour cream to any dish will also add 61 calories and six grams of fat. Try substituting fat-free Greek yogurt for sour cream and save yourself almost fifty calories and six grams of fat per ounce. Try these creamy mashed potatoes.
  4. Stevia for sugar. Do you detest the taste of sugar-free sweeteners? If so, try substituting Stevia for regular sugar in your favorite holiday desserts. Stevia is an all-natural, zero-calorie substance that saves 774 calories per cup. This substitution is a one-to-one ratio. You can usually find Stevia next to the sugar in the baking aisle at the grocery store.

Answers in your inbox

Expert advice delivered directly to you. Get weekly tips