Don’t worry — it’s possible to indulge in delicious Christmastime treats this holiday season without gaining the extra pounds using some simple hacks and kitchen swaps that make some traditional favorites a little bit healthier.
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Nutritionist and health writer Jessica Sepel, creator of the JS Health brand, shared some of her favorite tips and tricks for getting through the holidays without maxing out your calorie bank.
Plus, Sepel shared some of her top holiday recipes with “GMA” below, all featuring healthy swaps for traditional side dishes you will find at a holiday dinner.
Expert tip’s to avoid holiday weight gain
Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods, but practice ‘moderation’
Sepel said her first tip for those looking to avoid holiday weight gain is not to deprive yourself, but to “enjoy everything in moderation.”
“When we deprive ourselves of food, it often backfires,” she said. “We want to give ourselves permission to try all of the holiday treats … You want to balance with the healthier options, but don’t deprive yourself.”
‘Never arrive at a holiday event hungry’
While some people will “fast all day long” because they know they have a big Christmas dinner coming up, Sepel said this tactic often results in you overindulging or overeating when it comes to dinner time.
“I say eat balanced meals throughout the day and especially have a healthy, protein-rich snack in the afternoon,” Sepel said. “You will find that you can really control your portion sizes and control by doing that.”
Watch what you drink
Sepel also acknowledged that alcohol can be a big contributor to holiday weight gain, and while she says she recommends “absolutely” allowing yourself to drink, try to “go for the sugar-free version of cocktails, in moderation.”
“My personal stopping at one to three drinks at a sitting, and then sipping the alcohol slowly,” she said. “So many of us drink so fast, it’s really nice to slow down and sip alcohol slowly.”
Healthy holiday recipe swaps
“A good mash doesn’t have to be potato,” Sepel said. “If you’d like to have a nutrient-dense, but just as yummy side of mash, try this cauliflower version instead.”
Serves: 3 to 4
– 1 head of cauliflower
– 1 tbsp virgin organic coconut oil or organic butter
– 1/2 cup milk of choice (I use almond milk)
– sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
– 3 tbsp crushed walnuts
– 1 tsp paprika, to serve
1. Cut the cauliflower into large chunks or florets.
2. In a pot of boiling water or a steamer, steam the cauliflower until it’s very well cooked, approximately 10-15 minutes. Allow it to cool slightly.
3. In a food processor, add the cauliflower, milk of choice, coconut oil or butter, and walnuts. Pulse or purée the mixture until it forms a smooth, creamy consistency. Alternatively, you can use a stick blender until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little water.
4. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
Notes: If you don’t have the cookware to steam your veggies, you can add them to a large pot of boiling water and boil them until soft. Then add to the food processor and continue on with the recipe.
Christmas-Spiced Tahini Shortbread recipe
Makes: 15 to 18 shortbread
– 2/3 cup coconut flour
– 4 tbsp chia seeds
– 2/3 cup desiccated coconut
– 2/3 cup raw almonds
– 4 heaped tbsp hulled tahini
– 3 to 4 tbsp maple syrup/raw honey
– pinch sea salt
– 1 tbsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 cup warm water
For the toppings:
– 2 tbsp raw almonds
– 2 tsp hulled tahini
– pinch cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 350°F and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Add all ingredients into a food processor and process until it comes together – the mixture should be sticky enough to hold its shape when pressed. If it’s too dry, try adding a touch more water.
3. Roll 2 tbsp of mixture into a ball and press onto the lined baking tray until 1 cm thick. Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut the circle into a star, returning the surrounding mixture to the food processor. Repeat with remaining mixture until all shortbread is shaped into stars. Top with an almond.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.
5. Drizzle with extra tahini and sprinkle with cinnamon.
How to make a healthy party platter
My ultimate situation: an evening with my friends or family sharing good wine, delicious wholesome nibbles and great conversation.
I have become obsessed with making JSHealth platters for when I entertain. I find it so easy, delicious, and fun to create. Yes, the healthy life should be fun too!
A lot of the time, the snacks that accompany parties aren’t always the healthiest.
So here is what I love to place on my platter:
– Dips – hummus, pesto or my favorite roasted carrot dip
– A selection of cheeses – ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella are some of my faves
– Flaxseed crackers
– Veggie sticks – carrot, cucumber, capsicum, green beans
– Kale chips
– Smoked salmon
– Raw nuts and seeds
– Fresh berries
– Medjool dates
Raw chocolate Christmas bark recipe
Serves: 9 to 12
– 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
– 2/3 cup raw cacao powder
– 1 tbsp tahini
– 3 tbsp sweetener of choice (raw honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup)
– Pinch of sea salt
– 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
– 1/2 cup goji berries
– 2 to 3 tbsp shredded coconut
1. Combine the melted coconut oil, raw cacao powder, tahini, sweetener, sea salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
2. Line a small baking pan with baking paper and pour the mixture into a baking pan. Top the mixture with chopped pistachios, goji berries and shredded coconut.
3. Cover with cling wrap and freeze flat for 20-30 minutes or until the chocolate is set.
4. Break apart and serve.
5. Keep stored in an air-tight container in the freezer.