The holiday season is a time for indulgence. The trick is to figure out what to indulge in and being smart about it, be it non-exercise days, parties, sleep, intimacy, or holiday foods.

When you think of holiday food, it’s not too likely that carrot sticks and multi-grain bread come to mind. We try to avoid holiday foods because they’re “bad,” and when we give in, the guilt stays with us longer than the calories.

The 7th blog of our 12 Days of Christmas series will help assuage the guilt. Try these healthy holiday food substitutes when dining out:

Low Fat or Non-Fat Milk

It’s easy to get into a steady routine when you’re at a coffee shop ordering your morning pick-me-up. But when the holidays roll around, most coffee shops offer specialty drinks that can be enticing. Enticing enough to change up your order and call an audible for something that’s only around for a month or so.

Be careful though, because it’s easy to lose track of any of the special requests you have for your standard latte or cappuccino if you switch to a drink with an exotic name. Ordering a ‘Reindeer Mint Chocolate Surprise’ is enough of a mouthful without adding any more requests to the name.

Most coffee shop drinks are usually packed with calorie-rich extras. Cream, sugar, and regular milk all add to the flavor, but at the expense of additional calories. When ordering your holiday special, remember to ask for low-fat or non-fat milk.

5 Healthy Holiday Food Substitutes in Restaurants - Low Fat Milk

You’re not missing much in the flavor department, and you’re taking a big chunk out of how much the coffee drink is going to cost your waistline.

Go for Veggies as Holiday Food Instead of Fried Sides

How many times have you gone out for delicious holiday food but ended up eating a bit more than you wanted? It’s easy to look at the menu and talk yourself into getting entrees with fried sides, most of which are not healthy and add a lot to the meal’s calorie numbers.

If the restaurant offers veggies that are not deep fried as an option for your entree side, take advantage of it. They often prepare them quite well and are just as delicious, but with a lot less fat and calories than fried holiday food. If you can’t find a vegetable option, at least opt for a side that is not deep fried. Stay away from foods with a lot of oil or butter as well. Mashed potatoes are a great example. They’re delicious due to the butter added after the fact. Instead of avoiding the meal altogether, you decide how much butter is added to it, not the chef.

Keep Fruit in Mind for Dessert

Dessert around the holidays is almost a necessity. This is a lot more true if you are joining friends or family for a big dinner together.

Restaurants also offer great holiday desserts that are quite enticing. Not all of them are healthy and that is definitely by design of the chef. The more sugar or fat in a dessert, the more delicious it will be. Delicious, and also unhealthy.

Try to find a dessert option that’s based around fruit. The sugars in fruit are natural, and have some health merits as opposed to refined and processed sugars you’d find in other desserts.

5 Healthy Holiday Food Substitutes in Restaurants - Fruit

Fish or Chicken Instead of Red Meat

While you may not always have the option of choosing to have your food prepared in the most healthy method possible, you can choose which food to consume. If everything on the menu is fried or soaked in oil, at least choose meat that’s going to be a little lower in cholesterol and calories.

Fish and chicken both are fairly healthy, even if breaded and pan fried. While that might not seem like a holiday food compared to a nice ham, it’s going to be a lot better for you. Maybe start a new tradition this year with finding holiday food that’s a little different than you normally eat.

Embrace Cider, Skip the Eggnog

For a lot of us, holidays are a time when we expand our horizons a bit. If you’re the type who likes to explore holiday drink selections, then you know that not all of the options are the same.

One great substitution is to nix the eggnog this year. It’s thick and creamy, yes, but that also makes this holiday drink a calorie bomb, with a hefty dose of fat thrown in. Instead, grab a cup of hot cider. You are essentially removing cream, and replacing it with apple juice. You’re still looking at some calories from the sugar in the cider, but nowhere near the amount of fat.


In our 8th blog next week, we’ll give you tips on how to survive the holiday travel nightmare at airports.