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. 

9 Tips To Healthy Holidays

Search for healthy choices

Most people associate the holidays with high-calorie foods, but there are plenty of other options available. 

Zero in on produce first. Load up on raw vegetables found on crudite platters and salads. 

Instead of high-fat dressings, use balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Cheese is another good choice. Beware of going overboard though, one to two ounces is all you need (about the size of a pair of dice or a 9-volt battery).

Make these veggie shooters from healthy blogger Skinnytaste.

Make your own

Preparing your own holiday “clean” meal is the perfect way to ensure that you’ll be eating healthy recipes. This is ideal for potluck parties. 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.

Surprise and delight with this simple, delicious Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vingarette

Choose 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.

Healthy blogger How Sweet Eats created a whole wheat stuffing, check it out here.

Stick to 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, 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. Instead try roasted garlic, fresh herbs, or horseradish.

Skip potatoes all together and make this cauliflower mash from BuiltLean.

Downsize your plate

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.

Try these Mini Crab Cups. Two little cups have just over 100 calories, and the creamy lump crabmeat filling will feel like anything but deprivation.

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.

 Get festive and snack on this Skinny Pumpkin Pie Dip with apple slices.

Don’t eat distracted

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. 

Eat 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.

Give Cooking Light’s Pecan Sticky Wedges a try!

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.