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Thriving During the Holidays

by Lindsey Sexton - December 21, 2020

Having fun with friends and family and enjoying good food does not have to result in weight gain, forgotten meal plans, and unwanted stress. In fact, it is possible to maintain (or even lose) weight during this time, keep stress at a minimum, and save on the family grocery bill.


4 Tips for Thriving During this Holiday Season

  • Use simple substitutions
  • Plan for leftovers
  • Save on groceries by freezing leftovers
  • Manage stress


How can I manage my weight during the holidays?

Trade out higher calorie, higher fat ingredients with lower fat and lower calorie ones.  Sometimes just decreasing the amount of sugar or oil can make a huge difference in the overall calories of the dish without changing the taste.  Let’s review some simple ingredient swaps that can make our favorite recipes healthier for our families.

Item  Good Substitute  Better Substitute Best Substitute
Sour cream Light sour cream Low-fat plain yogurt Nonfat plain yogurt
Mayonnaise Light mayonnaise Miracle Whip Light ½ nonfat yogurt; ½ MW Light
Fatty meats Lean cuts of meat  Chicken or turkey breast Fish (particularly finfish)
Fried foods Using a cooking spray to sauté foods Bake foods without added fat Broil/steam foods
Ice cream Ice milk Sherbet Low-fat yogurt


What should I do with leftover holiday foods?

Many times when cooking dinner for the holidays, we overestimate and prepare too much food.  Simply repurpose your leftovers.

Prepared turkey or ham can be used in a variety of ways! Combine with vegetables and make a pot pie or soup. Toasted sandwiches served on whole grain bread can be a meal in and of itself when you layer on protein, veggies, and cheese.


Which leftovers can I freeze for later?

The ideas above are great if you plan to use leftovers within the recommended 3-4 days. However, some folks need a break from holiday foods that’s when the freezer can be your friend.

Freezing is a great way to preserve leftovers for future repurposing!  According to food safety experts, cooked, frozen food will retain quality for 3-4 months if properly packaged.  Make sure the container used to freeze leftovers is marked as “freezer safe.”  After placing the leftovers in the container, label the container with the name of the food and date placed in the freezer.  When ready to use, remove from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator.  It is also safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing; just make sure they reach 165°F before serving.

Keep a list handy of frozen leftovers and use the list when making weekly family menus.  Money saved!


How can I manage stress during the holidays?

It’s important to reduce stressors whenever possible and learn how to manage stress that remains. Highlights of stress reduction for the holidays are to stay within a budget, to give oneself down time and not over schedule, to avoid (or at least limit time with) toxic or difficult people, and this year to gather safely even if it feels weird. Taking a walk or taking a short nap can even give you that boost you need. And luckily, there are other options to stay in touch with family and friends, such as phone calls, texts, and video chats.


Adapted from Happy Healthy, Holidays, 2020, by Dr. Debie Head, UAEX Associate Dept Head-FCS