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How to Eat Healthier During the Holidays

Indulge in Fall Comfort Foods Without Packing On Pounds: Here's How

So you're on a diet or working toward a weight-loss goal just as we're heading into the holiday season and arguably the best food-flavor season: Fall. No pumpkin pie? No mashed potatoes? How will anyone survive?

Don't freak out, because you can absolutely partake in the food festivities of the season. Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, corporate dietitian at Medifast, gave us some tips on how to totally indulge and enjoy delicious Fall foods and flavors without wrecking our weight-loss progress. Take notes, friends.

Focus on fruits and veggies.

"Fall flavors come in many forms beyond pie and stuffing." Try the fruits and veggies of the season — naturally low in calories and "packed with health-promoting nutrients, including dietary fiber, a nutrient that helps fill us up, stabilize blood sugar levels, and promote optimal digestion," Miller said in an email to POPSUGAR. She suggests adding produce into each meal and gave some great examples on how to do so.

  • Add pumpkin puree to chili.
  • Throw slices of pear into a grilled cheese.
  • Toss some chopped apple and pomegranate seeds on salads.
  • Stuff acorn or butternut squash with lean turkey sausage and apples.
  • Spiralize sweet potatoes or try spaghetti squash in place of pasta (she noted that a cup of spaghetti squash has 40 calories and a cup of spaghetti has 220 calories).
  • Grate cauliflower and use it to make pizza crusts or tortillas.
  • Bake apples (cored; peeled, optional).
  • Stew pears with cinnamon and serve with low-fat vanilla yogurt for a healthy dessert option.

Modify your favorites

You don't have to sacrifice traditional favorites when you cook them yourself — just modify the recipe and make it healthier according to your needs.

"Love pumpkin pie? Make your own crust-less version," she said. "In the mood for chili? Use lean ground turkey, pumpkin puree, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and all of your favorite chili spices; top with plain Greek yogurt, chopped scallions, and/or slices of avocado. Baking something? Add pureed butternut squash, cranberries, or shredded apple for an extra boost of fiber."

Choose wisely

You don't have to deprive yourself completely, but focus on portion control. "Only splurge on a small serving of something that is truly worth it, like your mom's homemade pumpkin bread," she said. "Don't waste calories on anything that isn't extraordinary."

Miller also noted the importance of controlling portions and to try to avoid eating second helpings. "Use small plates (perhaps an appetizer or dessert plate) and at lunch and dinner, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and a third with lean protein." She also noted that you should "eat food slowly so that your body can register when it is full."

Another portion-control technique? Make foods smaller. Her examples:

  • Sliders instead of full-size burgers.
  • Meatloaf muffins instead of a whole meatloaf.
  • Pumpkin mini muffins instead of pumpkin bread (using a mini muffin tin).

Another delicious recipe suggestion: make burgers with lean ground turkey and fresh cranberries. For meatloaf, Miller suggests adding pumpkin puree in with lean ground beef or turkey.

Enjoy a cup of joe

"Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin coffee . . . it can be hard to resist!" she said. Miller cited the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: three to five eight-ounce cups of coffee per day can be incorporated into a healthy diet. She noted that this amount of coffee isn't dangerous, nor has it been "associated with an increased risk of major chronic disease, like cancer or cardiovascular disease." But wait, there's more.

"In fact, it may even help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings." Wait, did she just say . . . reduce cravings?! Pour another cup! "The key is to keep your coffee free of added sugars, syrups, and cream. Avoid high-calorie specialty drinks, and stick with plain coffee and a splash of non-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk."

Still need some PSL flavor? Miller told us to try pumpkin spice coffee — hold the syrup — or add a little pumpkin spice to your coffee grounds before you brew.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Arturo Torres
Product Credit: Williams Sonoma Desserts, Servingware
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