Frida Harju, nutritionist at health and fitness app Lifesum shares some of her comments on unhealthy holiday foods and their healthier alternatives.
This classic Christmas drink is one of the worst culprits for calorie intake. The combination of sugar, eggs and whipped cream is already unhealthy, but add to this the necessary serving of bourbon and you have a drink that comes to a massive 343 calories and nearly an entire day’s recommended daily sugar intake!
While it’s difficult to change much about this drink, there are ways to make it healthier. Try finding an eggnog recipe that swaps the cream for either almond milk or yogurt and swap half the sugar content for vanilla extract or a touch of nutmeg or cinnamon, which will enhance the sweetness without using as much sugar.
In the cold winter months, a hot creamy soup often becomes our go-to comfort food and while we tend to assume that soups are a fairly healthy food option, this is not always the case. Cream based soups tend to use a large quantity of cream in the recipe, making them a high calorie meal option.
Rather than avoiding soups altogether, I would advise to opt where possible for a broth based soup that contains pasta and vegetables. Soups like this provide a great source of nutrition and energy without the high calorie intake of creamier versions.
Fruit pies are a holiday favorite, but despite containing fruit, they are not a healthy dessert option due to the high fat, calorie and sugar content within the pastry.
Try cutting back on the pastry content by swapping fruit pie for fruit tart, or if you are making the pastry yourself then substitute some of the butter/lard with a dollop of Greek yogurt or low fat sour cream.
Pigs In A Blanket
We all love this holiday party food, but while most people can guess that they aren’t the healthiest of snacks, few seem to know just how unhealthy these small bites are. A full fat hot dog can contain as much as 16 grams of fat, a third of which is unsaturated fat.
If you are making your own, then instead of using puff pastry as the blanket, use fat-free whole wheat pizza dough. This is a much healthier substitute with significantly less fat, leaving you able to enjoy these snacks without the conscience.
We might like to pretend, based on its name, that fruitcake is a reasonably healthy sweet option, however this is not the case. Fruitcake tends to have high butter, sugar and syrup content, making it high in both fat and calorie content. The same goes for Panettone- the Italian bread that has become a holiday favorite.
If you’re making your own fruit cake this year, then once again look for a recipe that substitutes the butter for Greek yogurt – this will cut the fat and calorie content dramatically.
Pecans on their own are a particularly high calorie nut and combined with sugary pie lead to a relatively unhealthy pie, containing approximately 37 grams of fat!
Pecan pie may be irreplaceable on your holiday menu, but a healthier alternative would be pumpkin pie which on average has significantly less fat, calorie and sugar content.
Despite being known for their health benefits, cranberries are not naturally sweet, so with cranberry sauce comes a great deal of sugar. Typical canned cranberry sauce can contain as much as 105 grams of sugar per serving, which adds roughly 400 calories to your plate.
Rather than sacrifice this addition to your turkey, try creating your own sauce by using frozen or fresh fruit with less sugar.
Gingerbread may be a traditional holiday food, however many people are unaware of the high calorie content in gingerbread, as well as an even higher amount in gingerbread cake.
Stick to eating gingerbread cake or biscuits in small amounts and stay clear of gingerbread houses!
Gravy is a natural accompaniment to our holiday meals, however we rarely stop to think just how unhealthy this must be based on its ingredients. Homemade gravy is often thickened by adding white flour or corn-starch which adds carbohydrates and sugar to the recipe, whilst the traditional addition of fat drippings adds considerable amounts of fat and salt.
To make healthier gravy, try making the gravy from scratch using a stock cube, as it adds flavor but not fat to the recipe, and substitute the white flour for whole wheat flour – a low carbohydrate option.
The health benefits of red wine have long been debated, but it has been concluded that small quantities of red wine may in fact be good for the heart. Sadly this isn’t the same for mulled wine. Most mulled wine contains a great deal of added sugar, designed to sweeten it and give it its distinctive taste.
A healthy substitute for sugar filled mulled wine is to simply make your own! This way you can control the amount of sugar you are adding and a good tip for great flavor is to instead increase the cinnamon, orange and cloves content in the drink.