Clean Eating During the Holidays

“Clean Eating” expert, Diane Welland, shares 9 simple tips to keep the holidays healthy.


Photo: Iain Bagwell

Nine Tips for Clean Eating During the Holidays

You don’t have to give up eating “clean” just because it’s the holidays. Many of your favorite special-occasion treats can be “cleaned up” simply by swapping whole grains for refined ones, choosing low-fat dairy products, and using minimally processed sugars like honey or dehydrated cane juice sugar over granulated white or brown. Even if you do splurge on a few items, be smart and don’t overindulge. Follow these nine tips and you can eat well, feel great, and celebrate the season without feeling guilty or deprived.

Read More: Seven Principles of Clean Eating

Clean Appetizers and Starters

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Search Out Healthy Offerings

While most people associate the holidays with rich, high-calorie foods, there are plenty of other options available. Zero in on produce first by loading up on raw vegetables found on crudite platters and salads. Instead of high-fat dressings, drizzle your greens with balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Cheese is another good choice, but beware of going overboard, one to two ounces is all you need (about the size of a pair of dice or a 9-volt battery).

Read More:  5 Healthful Holiday Foods

Clean Recipes: Apple Cranberry Turkey Roulade

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Make It Yourself

Preparing your own holiday “clean” meal is the perfect way to ensure that you’ll be eating delicious, healthy recipes. This is ideal for potluck parties, but even without an official invitation many hostesses welcome homemade food. If you know you’re going to a holiday party where “clean” options are slim, offer to bring your own dish. Choose items you can make ahead that lend themselves to large gatherings. This Apple Cranberry Turkey Roulade fits the bill. To make it even cleaner, use whole-wheat flour and low-sodium, uncured bacon in place of regular bacon.

View Recipe: Apple Cranberry Turkey Roulade

Clean Recipes: Bulgur with Dried Cranberries

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Hone in on Whole Grains

Choosing whole wheat or whole grain breads over white is one of the easiest ways to stick to your “clean” diet during the holidays. Prepare traditional stuffing with stone-ground cornbread, whole wheat, or whole grain breads and be sure and load up on the vegetables. If you prefer rice stuffing, substitute brown or wild rice in place of white. For an interesting twist, try experimenting with different grains like quinoa, millet, or barley. This American version of the Middle Eastern tabbouleh uses bulgur and offers a unique and tasty alternative for standard stuffing.

View Recipe: Bulgur with Dried Cranberries

Clean Recipes: Camembert Mashed Potatoes

Celebrate Your Sides

Side dishes add color, flavor, and texture to your menu as well as pump up your healthy quotient. Make your vegetable side dishes just as attractive as your main entrée by using fresh, wholesome, seasonal produce. Keep them simple by roasting vegetables until they’re caramelized and crispy then top with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts, balsamic vinegar, or kalamata olives. Avoid loading up mashed potatoes with butter and heavy cream and instead liven them up with roasted garlic, fresh herbs, or horseradish. Try adding a small amount of a sharp, robust cheese like in this Camembert Mashed Potatoes.

View Recipe: Camembert Mashed Potatoes

Clean Recipes: Mini Crab Cups

Photo: Sang An

Downsize Your Dishes

Small plates are essential in the clean eaters’ kitchen because they help keep portion size under control and calorie overload to a minimum. This is particularly important during the holidays when temptation is everywhere.

A good portion control trick for cocktail parties, when we all can go a little crazy over a pan of hot dip, is to stick to something in a self-contained package. These Mini Crab Cups do the trick. Two little cups have just over 100 calories, and the creamy lump crabmeat filling will feel like anything but deprivation.

View Recipe: Mini Crab Cups

For more tips on taming portion sizes, check out our ten top secrets of portion control.

Clean Recipes: Roast Pork Sandwiches

Photo: Howard L. Puckett

Don’t Skip Meals

Resist the urge to “save up” your calories and skip meals in lieu of a big holiday feast. The practice leads to overeating and making poor food choices. Instead, follow the “clean” eating plan and eat small meals and snacks throughout the day even when going to a party. This keeps energy high, blood sugar stable, and fatigue at bay. With only 200 calories, each these mini roast pork sandwiches are a perfect small meal and leave room for a piece of fruit or vegetable side dish.

View Recipe: Roast Pork Sandwiches

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Photo: Iain Bagwell

Pay Attention to What You Eat

Clean eaters focus on fresh, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry prepared without loads of fat, sugar, and salt. But, when it comes to the holidays it’s okay to indulge a little. The key is to choose a small amount (think about taking a “taste”) and make sure the food is worth the extra calories. Something as simple as beautiful long-stemmed strawberries dipped in dark, bittersweet chocolate can make the perfect indulgence.

Read More: Go Ahead, Indulge!  

Clean Recipe: Crema Catalana

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Don’t Ditch Dessert

Everyone likes a sweet treat, especially this time of year. Don’t deprive yourself of dessert just because you’re eating clean. Make desserts that highlight fresh whole fruit and search for lightened-up recipes of more traditional dishes. This light French version of a Crème Brûlée is less than 150 calories. Pair it with fresh sliced berries or other fruit for a colorful and healthy dessert.    

View Recipe: Crema Catalana

Drink to Your Health

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Drink to Your Health

Alcoholic and beverage calories can rack up fast. To stretch your drink quota, spritz your wine or juice with mineral water or seltzer. At your own party, consider serving up flavored unsweetened teas, which make an interesting alternative to sugary drinks.   

Read More: Healthy Holiday Cocktails

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