The 12 Days of Christmas Health (and a great recipe)

(Part 1 of a 12-part series)

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year”. A time when we gather with family and friends to celebrate traditions and spread good cheer. The holidays also bring lots of opportunities for socializing, eating, and drinking.

There’s no doubt that the festive season can be a challenging time if you are trying to stay healthy. It seems everywhere we look there is another table filled with food, from office holiday parties to family get-togethers. Even the most disciplined people struggle with temptation during the holiday season.

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According to research, most adults will gain an average of one to two pounds during the holiday season (which can  add up over the years). Holiday parties and busy schedules leave little time for planning healthy meals or sticking to our regular exercise routines. To help you stay on track, I have put together a list of holiday wellness tips, which I will be sharing over the next 12 days.  And with each tip, I will be including a special holiday recipe.

Tip #1 – Healthy Recipe Swaps

Traditional holiday dishes are really not that unhealthy at their core. Lean turkey, roasted vegetables, fruit and nuts are all healthy, it’s the trimmings (sauces, butter, gravy) that we add to the dishes that cause them to move from the “nice” to “naughty” list. Most dishes can be enjoyed without these extras, but if that just doesn’t cut it for you, try these healthy swaps: 

Pasta: If pasta plays a part in your holiday traditions, then try substituting the usual white grain noodles with spiralized zucchini. Raw vegetable noodles (zucchini works well, but other options include bell peppers, carrots and yams) add nutrients and fibre to your diet. And as a bonus, you feel lighter after your meal, avoiding that heavy “over-eating” feeling we often get after holiday meals. 

Mashed potatoes are another holiday favourite that is on the “naughty” list...and most of us love our potatoes (I know my husband does!). But every spoonful of mashed potatoes adds a huge serving of carbs to our plate, even before we add butter or gravy.  Try swapping mashed potatoes for light pureed cauliflower and add other vegetable side dishes to boost the nutritional value of your meal and keep you feeling full so you don't overeat. 

Skinless turkey has almost half the fat (7.5 g compared to 12.5 for a 3.5 oz serving) and fewer calories (185 per 3.5 ox) than its full fat skin-on version. White turkey meat has even less fat and calories (155 calories and 3 g of fat per 3.5 oz serving). Swapping the gravy for a vegetable sauce can save you added salt and fat: Try sautéing diced mushrooms with onions in a no-salt-added vegetable broth.. 

Other healthy swaps include plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, grilled fruit with pumpkin pie spices instead of fruit pie, green beans sautéed in olive oil instead of a green bean casserole, hummus instead of a cream cheese dip. 

A Garlic Mashed Cauliflower recipe that even the most devoted potato lover will enjoy

Follow the 12 Days of Christmas health blog series, for tips on staying healthy over the holiday season, including tips on finding time for ourselves, how to stay active during the holidays, and ideas for last-minute gifts for your health conscience loved ones.


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