Even as you indulge and enjoy and, I hope, use some portion control and selectivity, it's not too soon to get some help with ways to keep food pleasure in play, while reducing calorie loads, salt, sugar and unhealthy fat. How? With a food makeover, that's how. Here are some recommendations that you can use now and especially in the New Year. They will help to pleasure your palate and support your health.
Dairy proteins like low-fat Greek yogurt can be filling, with about 100 calories per serving and provide a base for a healthy parfait, soups, and as a topping on half a baked potato.
Healthy grains like wild rice, quinoa, couscous, or the more starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes (rich in fiber) and peas (which have protein) should be your go-to carbohydrate choices. Though some experts recommend cutting starch and grains completely, I think most people rely on these foods for energy and for pleasure. You do need to choose the superstars, like the ones I list, and have fewer portion-controlled servings daily.
Raisins and berries can provide sweet and tart flavors which our palates crave, since we have become accustomed to eating so many processed, refined foods. These fruits can be added to oatmeal, yogurts, and salads to add flavor with fiber. Blueberries also freeze well, making them perfect as a cold, refreshing snack.
Nuts like almonds seem to support satiation, and the crunch and time they take to eat will also provide satisfaction and pleasure. Choose actual nuts over nut butter because of that “crunch factor.” You can also mix nuts and small amounts of water in a food processor to make a "cream" that is nutritious and delicious -- perfect in desserts and soups.
Green tea does seem to inspire a thermogenic or metabolic lift, though many studies suggest that you have to drink several cupfuls a day to appreciate that impact. Certainly unsweetened green tea can fill you up with zero calories.
Beans in general are low in calories and a good source of satiating protein and fiber. Soybeans are complete proteins, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Consider adding beans to stews, soups, salads and combining them with avocado to lighten a guacamole dip.
Spices, fresh and dried, can help you to flavor dishes with few added calories, and they can also help you to use less salt. Spice up kale leaves, drizzle lightly with olive or corn oil and bake at 425 degrees to make healthy seasoned kale chips.
Coffee is a good source of antioxidants and can help to boost your metabolism in the morning. Consider a cup of java to start your day. Avoid the blended, sugary, whipped cream topped coffee drinks for a simple cup with some skim milk.
A hard-boiled egg as a snack provides a filling protein boost for around 70 to 80 calories. Just remember that one egg a day, for most people, is fine but if you have a high total cholesterol level (or elevated LDL) you might want to opt for scrambled egg whites or a product like Egg Beaters instead.
Dips are a big part of food pleasure, so consider a bean-based dip like hummus made with chickpeas and olive oil. Or make a yogurt-based dip with spices and lemon juice. You can also create a decadent dessert by melting dark chocolate and serving it with a variety of fruits and berries.
Some final holiday eating tips: Be mindful, be selective, talk more than you eat, and give away the leftovers!! Happy Holidays!!
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on local and national news and talk shows, and check out her website. Follow her blogs.