The joy of the holiday season is here, so why not enjoy it guilt free? We know that going all out on tofu turkey is not in the cards for families who crave old favorites. Instead, take the time to re-examine how you prepare traditional dishes and try a healthier approach.

By taking these deliberate steps to boost your meal’s nutrition, you can feed the whole family without remorse.

Go easy on the butter

Instead of serving pre-made dinner rolls with pats of butter, opt for soft slices of fresh whole grain bread and a side of extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with a dash of crushed red pepper for some added kick.

Packed with antioxidants, healthy monounsaturated fats, and much more, extra virgin olive oil can also help you if your side dishes also tend to be butter-heavy. Carrots, asparagus, green beans, and other vegetables will still taste delicious when you swap butter for olive oil and a dash of sea salt.

Make it fresh

“Fresh is better” is a mantra that rings true for your holiday meals as well.

Potatoes. If mashed potatoes are a must, carve out more time to chop and prepare the real thing instead of relying on instant mashed potatoes. Not only will they taste better, but they will add a bit more nutrition too, especially if you leave the skins on for an added dose of fiber. If you’re feeling adventurous, try using sweet potatoes, unsweetened almond milk, just a dash of whipped butter, and some light seasoning.

Cranberries. On a similar note, opt for fresh cranberries instead of using a pre-made mix from a can. Because cranberries are in season throughout the fall, your local market may have fresh varieties available. For a healthier way to sweeten your sauce, try using organic local honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar.

Check your portions

After laboring over such a huge meal, it can be tempting to stack your plate high with all the trappings of a holiday feast. But try to keep your eyes smaller than your stomach. Drink plenty of water before dinner and eat slowly to notice when you are starting to feel full. Give yourself time to eat more mindfully and savor each bite.

Face it; while preparing holiday meals can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting. Afterwards, you may not want to set foot in the kitchen for a few days. Luckily, as a bonus of eating less, you will have plenty of leftovers, which can help you avoid cooking for a while.

Using your leftovers

Instead of discarding the remnants of your turkey, boil them to make a tasty turkey stock. Cut the carcass into smaller pieces and garnish with onions, carrots, bay leaves, and your favorite soup spices. Add several quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer. Occasionally skim any fat or foam from the surface. After about two hours, strain the stock and discard the solids.

For a simple, hearty turkey noodle soup, pair your homemade stock with leftover turkey, a handful of diced carrots, onions, celery, and whole wheat egg noodles.

Think outside the crust

We get it; depriving guests of apple pie might just spark a mutiny within your family. But a healthier twist on an old favorite may be more likely to receive a warm welcome. Leave the crust and ice cream behind with a baked apple crisp. Swap the crumbled topping for chopped walnuts or pecans for a delicious treat. For extra fiber, leave the skins on your sliced apples, but be sure to wash them well.

After dinner, remember to keep moving to beat a “food coma.” Stay on your feet for a bit while entertaining guests. If you are feeling particularly stuffed, try some gentle stretching or yoga to help your body ease digestion. In fact, invite your family to join you.

You do not have to go overboard with dietary changes in the name of health this holiday season. Just by reconsidering some of your ingredients, you may find that your food tastes better and that the extra effort was fulfilling.

Now reward yourself. Let someone else do the dishes.

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.