The holidays are known to be that time of year when you can stuff yourself silly. But it’s also the season when you should be smart enough to go for low calorie meals.
Did you know that a typical holiday dinner can pack on 3,000 calories just for that one meal alone? Yes, that’s right. It’s way more calories than you’re supposed to consume in a day all jammed into one dinner. So if you’re trying to lose weight or keep up an overall healthy lifestyle, then most holiday food may not be the best thing for you to eat all at once.
But hey, that doesn’t mean that you have to make a beeline for the salad bar while everybody else indulges. If you want to keep the pounds off your body and still enjoy the evening festivities, then your best bet is to swap out your typical menu for much healthier alternatives–like low calorie meals .
With a pinch of kitchen creativity and a hint of healthy meal prepping skills, you can enjoy a guilt-free meal this season! Check out these 9 healthy low calorie meals for this festive season.
9 Low Calorie Meals for a Guilt-free Holiday Celebration
Everyone needs something to munch on before diving into the main course. Let’s break down the favourite appetizers in a typical holiday meal and see what low calorie meals you can make as healthy alternatives:
Typical Holiday Dish: Calorie-packed Cheese and Crackers
While the cheese platter is an easy self-serving appetizer, it’ll actually mess up your diet from the start. Any type of cheese slice won’t go under 100 calories, which can make you feel dense and heavy before dinner even started. And paired with crackers or bread, wholewheat or not, adds carbs that will spoil your appetite.
1. Low-Calorie Alternative: Vegan Chips and Queso Dip
Enjoy the flavour of cheese without the rich and dense feeling by making your own cheese dip with nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is a flaky cheese alternative that you can mix with ingredients such as whole-grain flour and chickpea flour with seasonings and water to make a great low-calorie cheese sauce. Give up the carb-loaded crackers with some baked veggie chips such as kale or broccoli and have a dip!
Typical Holiday Dish: Fat-Filled Pigs in a Blanket
Pigs in a blanket may be one of the most beloved appetizers to have, but it’s basically fat wrapped in carbs. Big ones can go up to 500 calories per serving. And if you think getting them into bite sizes could make them healthier, then think again.
On average, every mini pig could be up to 58 to 91 calories, which doesn’t seem like a lot. But knowing how good they are, it will be difficult to not eat more than one. Plus, it is high in sodium, which doesn’t look good for anyone watching their blood pressure.
While they are a holiday classic, these little piggies can certainly pack a heavy punch on the calorie scale. Nonetheless, there still are low calorie meals that are just as good to satisfy your appetite.
2. Low-Calorie Alternative: Stuffed Mushrooms
Instead of wrapping sausages or hotdogs into some dough, try stuffing some flavour in portobello mushrooms.
While stuffed mushrooms can almost match the calorie count of mini pigs in a blanket at about 57 calories each, they do contain better health benefits. Mushrooms are full of protein and fibre and contain powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cell and tissue damage.
There are certainly tons more recipes for low-calorie stuffed mushrooms than there are for pigs in a blanket, which gives you the creative freedom in the kitchen. Vegan recipes often use vegan cheese with a variety of veggies like sundried tomatoes or nuts. Keto stuffed mushrooms pack on the healthy fats of butter and cheese with none of the carbs. Whichever diet you’re on, there is a recipe of this for you out there.
A holiday dinner is never complete without the sides. While they may not be the star of the show, sides can make or break the entire festive feast. Check out these side options that will pair nicely with your low-calorie dishes.
Typical Holiday Dish: Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Many people will agree that a celebration won’t be complete without mashed potatoes on the side. While potatoes don’t seem threatening, the preparation and ingredients used in mashed potatoes can actually make it a source of saturated fat and sodium. Also, if you won’t watch your serving size, you’d end up doubling the calories.
3. Low-Calorie Alternative: Crispy Holiday Salad
Salad is an absolute must-serve that can practically complement any dish. To boost the holiday flavours in this low-calorie side dish, you can pair salad greens like lettuce and cucumbers with apples, walnuts, and dried fruit. Drizzle some honey for dressing and you’ve made a holiday Honey crisp salad.
While this sweet salad seems a little bit heavier on the calorie scale at 280 calories per serving, it actually contains more than one health benefit.
Aside from greens being relatively low on calories, the other ingredients such as apples contain a lot of fibre and vitamins. Nuts not only add crunch but are great sources of plant protein. And honey is a great sugar alternative for diabetics and can help improve cholesterol.
4. Low-Calorie Alternative: Roasted Vegetables
Fall in love with vegetables this holiday season by incorporating them to your dishes as much as possible. One of the best ways to make veggies taste great is by roasting them, one of the most holiday kind of meal prep there is.
Sweet and regular potatoes are better roasted rather than mashed and slathered in butter. While they almost match in calorie intake at 200 and above per serving, roasting potatoes creates a flavour that doesn’t need the ever-so-fattening butter. Potatoes may be a little up there in carbs and starch, they do make up for it in potassium and fibre, which can help you lose belly fat and minimize the risk of heart disease.
Other roast-worthy vegetables include carrots, which are rich in vitamins and fibre. When roasted, they contain about 110 calories per serving. Bell peppers are high in vitamin A and vitamin C and are only 92 calories per serving.
You can certainly mix different vegetables for your side roasted dish, which not only add a variety of flavours but also provide multiple nutritional benefits all in one serving.
5. Low-Calorie Alternative: Holiday Soup
Winter is the best time for a bowl of soup, so keep it on the menu. Holiday soups such as cream of mushroom, pumpkin soup, pea soup, and others are already relatively low in calories as long as the servings are limited.
Mushroom soup is high in protein and is ideal for keto and vegan diets. 1 serving is about 96 calories or less.
Pumpkin soup is a low calorie wonder food at 71 calories per serving and is full of vitamin A and antioxidants.
Pea soup is also a low-calorie dish at 61 calories per serving. It is also packed with lots of fibre and plant protein.
The Main Course
The entree is what ties everything together. It is most definitely the star of the show. Aside from the merrymakings and the gifts, this is one of the traditional must-haves that make celebrations complete.
Typical Holiday Dish: Chicken or Ham
The two big competitors for the throne in most holiday dinners are Roasted Ham and Roasted Chicken, which both aren’t too friendly with the calorie intake.
However, you don’t have to etch them out of your holiday menu. What kind of holiday dinner would it be without them? Instead, keep in mind the health benefits and limit servings in order to stay on your calorie tracking. But out of the two, what will be better? Here are some things to consider before making the call.
6. Low-Calorie Alternative: Roasted Chicken
Both ham and chicken are two types of meat that are actually great sources of protein, which your body needs to function. They also pair up in calories, with about 140 to 200 calories of the same serving size. But if you’re going for the healthier option, the chicken reigns superior.
Ham is processed meat, which can increase risks for diabetes and heart disease. Chicken has higher grams of protein and is one of the leanest types of meat and sources of protein available. With a modest serving size, you can eat roasted chicken without taking in too many calories.
Not really feeling either of the two options for your main course? Then you can still have a roasted entree to go with your holiday that’s still festive as ever with a healthy twist. How? By trying out the vegan alternative holiday roast.
7. Low-Calorie Alternative: Roasted Chicken Vegan Holiday Roast
There is definitely a vegan option for everything, including holiday roasts. Foodie Melissa Huggins came up with a great vegan roast recipe that involves using gluten, vegan-friendly stuffing, and seasonings to make a festive roast.
A hefty holiday meal is usually not complete without mouthwatering desserts. And because it’s the holidays, you’ll usually be presented with all your traditional favourites. It will take a great deal effort to resist mouthwatering treats!
Typical Holiday Dish: Mouthwatering and Sugar-filled Cakes, Pies, Cookies, and Chocolates
But of course, there’ll always be better alternatives to the usual holiday desserts. You can do so much better than loading up on sugar, fats and carbs as a satisfying finish to your feast. End the dinner right with these low calorie meals that make great dessert dishes and still end the night on a high note.
8. Low-Calorie Alternative: Healthy Holiday Pudding
As much as sticky figgy pudding is an absolute delight at the holiday table, one serving is 290 calories and most of it comes from carbs and fat. Yikes.
Try switching it up this year with healthier holiday pudding options. Going keto with pudding is the healthiest way to go. Using keto bread alongside vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and you’ve got yourself a keto-friendly pudding.
9. Low-Calorie Alternative: Eggnog
Eggnog is a classic holiday drink that you can have at a low-calorie intake. Just by switching up the milk to nonfat or dairy-free milk alternatives can bring your calorie intake down to 90 calories per cup.
You can still enjoy holiday dinners without worrying about holiday weight if you choose healthier options. Ultimately, it is the serving size that will keep your calorie count at bay. But having these low calorie meals provide better nutritional benefits, which can make your holiday meals merrier and healthier.
ALSO READ: HOW TO GET RID OF BELLY FAT: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
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