Healthy Holiday Eating

Ready or not, the holiday season is here! You’ll have lots of opportunities in the next month to practice healthy eating strategies.

Download On Track with Barix: Healthy Holiday Eating

This month’s issue is full of ideas to help you do just that. We have some amazing food swaps to help you enjoy your favorite holiday foods and drinks while sticking to your plan. These ideas will help you through the holiday season, but can also be used all year long for an eating plan that is lower in fat, sugar and calories to support a healthy weight.

Practice the 80/20 Rule

The holidays are no reason to completely give up your typical eating pattern. At least 80% of the time, stick to your tried and true healthy food choices. You can do this by:

  • Stocking your kitchen with the same nutritious foods that you would throughout the year.
  • Taking a healthy dish to family events or potlucks.
  • Keeping your office stocked with healthy snacks.
  • Getting or keeping a reputation for being a healthy eater.

Occasionally, it’s okay to indulge in a small serving of a not-so-healthy holiday food or drink, but with holiday treats confronting your senses everywhere you turn, be picky. Choose a special treat and then take time and savor each bite.

Take the Focus off of Food

Gatherings of friends, families and co-workers should have more going for them than the food that is served. Plan activities that help people interact and enjoy each other’s company. Take a walk together, go bowling, have a team laser tag tournament, decorate, make a craft or play games.

Be Creative

Homemade kale chips paired with low fat spinach dip—why not? Low sugar pumpkin mousse to replace pumpkin pie—for sure! Look at the Healthy Food Swaps below for more ideas on how to change traditional calorie/sugar bombs in to nutritious treats! The internet is filled with delicious and healthy treats—get creative and try something new!

Food Swaps

Prepare favorite dishes by using ingredients/methods that result in foods and drinks that are lower in fat, sugar and calories. These little changes make a big difference.

Gravy. Use a gravy separator to skim the fat off drippings before making gravy. This simple step saves a whopping 56 gm of fat and 504 calories per cup. Another method is to freeze drippings for 15 minutes and skim fat off the top. You can also make gravy with fat-free turkey broth in place of the drippings.

Turkey. Take the skin off of the turkey after cooking and enjoy the white meat.

Mashed Potatoes. Use skim milk and/or low-fat chicken broth in place of whole milk and butter in mashed potatoes. Use evaporated skim milk to boost protein. Cauliflower mash is a healthy low calorie alternative that tastes surprisingly similar to mashed potatoes.

Stuffing. Make stuffing in a pan rather than stuffing the bird, using low-fat, low-sodium broth.

Dips. Make dips with nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain Geek yogurt in place of regular sour cream to save 35-40 calories an ounce.

Sweet Potatoes. Instead of serving candied yams (215 calories per half-cup serving), substitute oven-roasted sweet potatoes or a sweet potato casserole made with a sugar sub or sugar free maple syrup in place of brown sugar.

Vegetables. Give vegetables center stage. We’re not talking about the classic green bean casserole made with fried onions, butter, cheese, salt, and cream of mushroom soup—hardly a healthy option. We’re talking about fresh green beans sautéed in olive oil with a garnish of slivered almonds; roasted cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and garlic with a touch of fresh Parmesan cheese browned on top; or a broccoli salad with apples, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, green onion, and tossed with Skinny Girl Poppyseed dressing. Delicious vegetable options like these make it easy to enjoy vegetables as much as other holiday fare.

Eggnog. Make faux eggnog—blend together until smooth 4 bananas, 1-1/2 cups skim milk 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt, and 1/4 teaspoon rum extract. Pour into glasses and top with a sprinkle of nutmeg. This eggnog recipe has you set for a party (

Breakfast Casserole. Many breakfast casserole recipes start with hash browns and pile on the fat and calories with sausage and cheese. Instead, make mini egg white crust-less quiche with lean meats and lots of veggies—they will be so flavorful that you can skip the cheese.

Cheese and Salami Platter. Replace this calorie-laden tradition with shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs or chicken kebabs.

Mixed Nuts. It’s easy to get carried away with nuts. They can be an easy grazing food. Keep your portion small—about 100 calories worth or make a healthy sub. Salty and crunchy doesn’t need to mean high fat. Substitute light popcorn, baked kale chips, turkey jerky, or dill pickle spears.

Apple Pie.  A slice of pie can set you back 300 calories or more. Cut your calories in half with these easy and delish recipes:

Pumpkin Treats. Pumpkin is healthy and easy to make into delicious holiday treats. Most pumpkin pie recipes call for 1 cup of cream or evaporated whole milk and two eggs. Swap that with evaporated skim milk and three egg whites to cut fat and calories.  Here are some other healthy pumpkin recipes sure to become family favorites:

Sour Cream. When incorporated into recipes, it’s hard to tell the difference between sour cream and plain Greek yogurt. Make the sub in any dish that calls for sour cream and you’ll not only save calories and fat, but you’ll get a boost of protein as well.

Butter or Margarine. Replace butter or margarine in recipes with no-added-sugar applesauce, baby prunes or Greek yogurt.

Cream Cheese. Light cream cheese has 40 fewer calories per 2 tbsp. serving and fat free cream cheese reduces calories by 70.

Cream. Replace cream with evaporated skim milk or fat free half and half.

Eggs. Replace with egg whites or liquid egg substitute.

Pasta. Get the garlic and tomato flavors you love and fill your plate with fiber and vitamins by swapping out pasta with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. You may also want to try some of the chickpea, black bean or other alternative pastas that are now readily available.

Hot Cocoa. Warm up Fairlife milk, stir in sugar-free Nestle Quick and top with a dollop of sugar-free cool whip and you have delicious traditional treat Barix style. You can sprinkle on some crushed sugar-free peppermint candies or shaved sugar-free Hershey’s chocolate for an extra special treat.

Hot Cider. Alpine Spiced Cider Sugar Free is nice to cozy up with on a cold evening. It is especially good with a couple of whole cloves and a cinnamon stick.

Sugar. Use erythritol or stevia to in place of sugar in baked products. Truvia is a product that combines erythritol and stevia to make a great-tasting sweetener you can bake with. Use sugar-free maple syrup, sugar-free flavored syrups (in the coffee aisle), and fresh fruit purees to sweeten without sugar.


5 cups fat-free FairLife milk
1 4-serving box vanilla instant pudding, sugar-free
1 tsp. vanilla or rum extract
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Extra Creamy Reddi-whip

Combine milk, pudding mix, sweetener, extract, and nutmeg in blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into glasses. Cover and refrigerate until thickened—about 30 minutes. Top with 2 Tbsp whipped topping and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 125 calories, 13 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 12 grams

Apple Crisp

1 cup Splenda®
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup 100% orange juice
5 baking apples, cut into ¼ inch slices

1 cup old-fashioned oats-uncooked
2 tablespoons Splenda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup Rice Krispie® cereal
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8” baking dish with cooking spray.

Filling: Mix Splenda, cinnamon and orange juice together in bowl. Add apples and toss to coat.

Topping: In another bowl, stir together oats, Splenda, and cinnamon. Add butter and mix. Stir in cereal and walnuts.

Put filling in baking pan and spoon topping over the apple mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until browned. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories, 3 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 21 grams carbohydrate, 45 mg sodium.

Apple Strudel

3 (about 1 lb.) Golden Delicious apples, peeled, sliced
1 tbsp. reduced-calorie tub margarine
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
3 tbsp. walnuts, chopped
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water

In medium saucepan, combine apples, 1/2 cup water, margarine, lemon juice, and cinnamon; cook over medium heat about 20 minutes, stirring frequently until apples are tender and liquid has evaporated; cool 15 minutes.

On lightly floured surface, roll pastry to a 14” x 10” inch rectangle; place on ungreased baking sheet. Spoon apple mixture lengthwise down center third of pastry; sprinkle with walnuts; brush edges with egg white mixture. Fold pastry on left side over filling, then pastry on right side to form strudel. Pinch edges to seal; turn pastry over so seam side is down. Brush with remaining egg white mixture; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F, using a sharp knife make 3 slits in top of pastry without cutting through pastry. Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on rack 30 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 185; protein 2 grams; fat 11 grams; sodium 166 mg

Pumpkin Mousse

1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding, sugar free (6 serving size)
3 cups skim milk
½ cup pumpkin, solid packed
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ cup Cool Whip Lite®
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix pudding and skim milk with wire whisk or mixer for 2 minutes. Fold in remaining ingredients. Spoon into cups or stemmed glasses. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of Cool Whip Lite. Makes six servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 106 calories, 7 grams protein, 1 gram fat and 207 mg sodium.

About Deb Hart

Deb Hart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 28 years, she has been helping bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight goals. She teaches people how to set up a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight. Deb set up her own lifestyle to include lots of long walks with her furry family members, workout classes at her local wellness center, meal prepping, and finding new ways to enjoy foods without added sugar.
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