Cook This: 4 Healthy Recipes to Get You Through the Holidays
For many people, just hearing the word “holidays” adds five pounds or magically knocks gym time off the schedule. While it’s true that there are tons of unhealthy choices this time of year, you don’t have to ditch your fitness and health goals just to enjoy the season.
The trick is to make foods you love but in healthier versions that are satisfying for you and your guests. Try swapping the following four healthier treats for more traditional, not-great-for-you dishes:
Twice-baked sweet potatoes
In many households, it’s a holiday staple to have canned yams that are drowning in maple syrup and brown sugar, sometimes with lightly broiled marshmallows on top. (Tell us again why this isn’t dessert.) Time for a switch-up.
One simple flip is to cook sweet potatoes—the fresh kind, not frozen—like you would baked potatoes and then top them with vegetables and cheese. Food blog Love & Lemons showcases a simple recipe that lets the flavor come through, without a hint of unhealthy sugar.
One of the ultimate comfort foods, a big plate of pasta is divine when you’re eating it, but for many people, it’s not so great later. The huge deluge of simple carbs, especially if you’re eating processed options, can bring on an energy slump and make you hungrier later. And if you have a gluten sensitivity, the results can be worse.
Zoodles to the rescue. When you’re craving pasta but don’t want the side effects, using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler on zucchini turns the vegetable into curly, noodle-like strands that resemble spaghetti and hold up well with sauces. Check out this Food Network collection of ideas for dishes to make with zoodles.
The holidays bring on plenty of snacking, and at nearly every party, there are bowls of chips just ready for some mindless eating. Get your salty, crunchy fix with some kale chips instead.
As described by food blog Nom Nom Paleo, these “chips” are made by simply baking pieces of kale that have been drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. They’re simple to prepare, rate super high on the healthy scale, and satisfy that part of you that’s looking for a snack option.
If it’s one food category that’s tough for many people during the holidays, it’s the sweets. Cookies, candy, gingerbread houses, cakes, pies—it seems like the stores would run out of sugar with how many treats are whipped up this time of year. That’s why it’s good to have a little treat of your own.
Food blogger Melissa Joulwan came up with this maple-pumpkin coconut macaroon recipe that does have a bit of maple syrup but is otherwise filled with healthy fats, including nuts and coconut oil.
It’s fine to indulge once in a while—one cookie is not going to sabotage all your good habits—but make sure to keep it at just that: an occasional indulgence. By focusing primarily on cooking healthy foods that make you feel the thrill of the season, you’ll enjoy the holidays much more.
As you’re reaching your nutrition goals, use that energy boost that healthy foods give you by stopping by the gym more often. Not only will it help keep your meals on track, but exercise is a great way to destress during the holidays, too. Sign up for a UFC GYM Free Pass today.