Naughty and nice: 10 healthy eating tips for the holidays

By: Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Photography by © Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by ©


Naughty and nice: 10 healthy eating tips for the holidays

By: Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Between office parties and family gatherings, there's no shortage of food and drinks. Here are some tips to help keep your healthy-eating plan on track while still enjoying your favourite seasonal goodies.

1. Naughty:
White dinner roll -- its refined white flour has a high glycemic index, which leads to high blood sugar levels.
Nice: Whole grain dinner roll -- whole grains provide more heart-healthy fibre and have a lower glycemic index than white bread.

2. Naughty: Green bean casserole -- this dish is often made with canned green beans, which have 650 milligrams of sodium per cup. Go fresh!
Nice: Green beans amandine -- fresh green beans are salt-free and loaded with folate and vitamin C. Plus, the good-for-you fat in almonds helps your body absorb vitamins and antioxidants.

3. Naughty: Fried chicken -- a 75-gram serving adds 13 grams of fat and 217 calories to your plate.
Nice: Grilled chicken breast -- it's protein-packed and makes you feel full -- all for 120 calories and less than two grams of fat in a 75-gram serving.

4. Naughty: Gravy -- do you really need more sodium? Gravy often packs 165 milligrams into just two tablespoons.
Nice: Fresh cranberry sauce -- with a mere 10 milligrams of sodium per two tablespoons, this is a better turkey topper than gravy, and it has heart-healthy antioxidants.

5. Naughty: Mashed potatoes -- those innocent looking fluffy clouds are often prepared with sour cream, whole milk, butter and salt.
Nice: Roasted root vegetables -- a blend of squash, carrots and sweet potatoes has about half the calories of mashed potatoes.

6. Naughty: Broccoli souffle -- butter, cheese and eggs bury the bits of broccoli. Of the 322 calories in a typical serving, only 18 come from the vegetable.
Nice: Stir-fried broccoli -- fortify your plate with vitamin-rich broccoli cooked in oil rather than butter.

7. Naughty: Creamed spinach -- spinach is a superfood, but not when it’s doused in butter, milk and cheese.
Nice: Raw veggie sticks -- crunchy raw vegetables are low in calories and also fat-free.

8. Naughty: Phyllo-dough appetizers -- go easy on these. The fifty calories in each one add up quickly.
Nice: Extra-large shrimp ring -- these crustaceans have only 15 calories each -- and that includes the cocktail sauce.

9. Naughty: Cured ham -- it’s a salty nightmare. A 75-gram serving has 639 milligrams of sodium.
Nice: Roasted turkey breast -- it contains just 35 milligrams of sodium per 75-gram serving. Who knew? Bonus: Turkey is an excellent source of niacin, which helps with digestion.

10. Naughty: Stuffing -- a cup of stuffing contains 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Ouch.
Nice: Quinoa, barley or brown rice side dish -- carbohydrates are essential, and these whole grains offer carbs with added fibre and vitamins, and less sodium than traditional stuffing.
Restaurant menus: Less salt please
Restaurant food, while delicious, is often high in sodium. If you are trying to eat well, don’t be shy about asking the server for information about ingredients and cooking methods.

You can make your meals less salty by asking for sauce on the side, ordering salad instead of french fries as a side and requesting that no salt be added during cooking.

Here are some sodium-reduced choices.

When eating at a burger joint choose:
• Burger topped with lettuce, onions and/or tomatoes
• Grilled chicken sandwich
• Salad with dressing on the side
• Baked potato
Instead of:
• Burger topped with cheese, ketchup, mustard and/or pickles
• Chicken wings or fingers
• French fries
• Onion rings

When eating at a Chinese restaurant
Stir-fried vegetables and meat with no sauce
• Steamed rice, buns or dim sum
Instead of:
• Foods made with soy, hoisin, fish, oyster, BBQ or black bean sauce
• Fried rice

When eating at an Indian restaurant choose:
• Plain rice
• Roti or chapati
• Tandoori dishes
• Dhal
Instead of:
• Pilaf
• Naan or paratha
• Curry dishes
• Biryani

When eating at an Italian restaurant choose:
• Grilled fish, meat or poultry
• Pasta with garlic and olive oil
• Pizza with vegetables
Instead of:
• Lasagna or parmigiana dishes
• Pasta with marinara sauce
• Pizza with bacon, extra cheese or pepperoni

When eating at a Japanese restaurant choose:
• Steamed rice
• Sushi or sashimi (hold the soy sauce)
• Unsalted edamame
• Salad
Instead of:
• Chicken, beef or salmon teriyaki
• Soy sauce as a dip

(Source: Health Canada)

Buffet survival tips
All-you-can-eat is an enticing invitation, but it wreaks havoc on your waistline and your arteries. Here are some simple rules to remember.

• Scan the entire table. Decide which foods are must-haves and which ones you can live without.
• Fill a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. Studies show that when you use a smaller dish, you consume less food.
• Pack at least half of your plate with colourful vegetables. If your plate is mostly beige and brown, you’ve missed out on the most nutritious choices.
• Sample your favourite decadent food, but keep the portion size small. Just a few tablespoons will give you the pleasurable tastes and textures you crave.
• The calories, fat and sodium multiply quickly in foods that are doused with heavy sauces, gravies or dressings, so use restraint.
• Skip the deep-fried items in favour of dishes that are broiled, baked, steamed, roasted or stir-fried.
• Save calories by drinking water rather than pop, iced tea or fruity drinks.
• Don’t head back for seconds.

This story was originally titled "Holiday Eating Survival Guide" in the December 2012 issue.

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Naughty and nice: 10 healthy eating tips for the holidays