Holiday weight gain is the adult version of the Freshman 15, and we can all relate. Research shows the average person will consume up to 4,500 calories, 200 grams of fat, 475 grams of carbs, and 200 grams of protein on Thanksgiving Day alone. Not to mention the cocktail parties, holiday gatherings, and New Year’s celebrations full of carb-filled treats and sugary drinks. But we have you covered this holiday season with five healthy ways to indulge, including appetizer and mocktail recipes your whole family will enjoy!
While it’s still a little warmer and time isn’t compromised by holiday chaos just yet, develop a new routine by increasing your attention to nutrition and activity. “Focus on whole food nutrition as much as possible,” says Registered Dietician Amanda Nighbert. “Load up on lean protein and tons of veggies at most meals.”
No need to scratch carbs altogether, but be mindful. After all, Thanksgiving spreads and tins of holiday cookies are a hotbed for overindulging. “Carbohydrates create that vicious cycle of hunger and fatigue,” says Nighbert. “The more we eat them, the more we crave them!” Nighbert suggests bringing your own dish to holiday events to ensure you have something healthy on the menu like the these Slow Cooker Sweet Buffalo Meatballs (see recipe below) that everyone in the family will be sure to love. The meatballs are packed with flavor and you can opt for a quality ground beef like Laura’s Lean.
Stave off cravings and overindulging by aiming for 64 oz of water each day. “When we neglect to get enough water in, we become fatigued and sluggish,” says Nighbert. “Proper hydration helps reduce hunger and cravings, keeps your bowels moving properly, and improves your sleep.”
To maintain your hydration over the holidays, skip the adult beverages and stick to mocktails like this Lawless recipe created by Robert Cate, beverage manager at Coppin’s at Hotel Covington. The citrusy beverage pairs perfectly with the slow cooker meatballs. “There’s a lot you can do to counter the heat when eating spicy foods,” says Cate. “Acid and sugar help counter the heat, while carbonation intensifies it.” Plus, it’s the perfect offering for the kiddos and moms-to-be.
Make getting active a family affair and find a turkey trot or holiday walk for everyone to participate in. Throughout the week, try to carve out a window of time to stick to your regular workout routine. And if time doesn’t permit for a full regimen, do little things like park farther away at the grocery store or take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall.
Come up with a plan before you show up at your holiday gathering. It’s worth repeating—throughout the day, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Also consider what will be offered at the party and have an idea of what you’re going to splurge on and where you plan to hold back. “Eat a small, high protein snack prior to the event so you are not starving,” suggests Nighbert. “Try not to eat as soon as you arrive, once you start eating it can be hard to stop.”
Meet registered dietician Amanda Nighbert and sample the meatball recipe at the upcoming Girls’ Night Out Holiday event. Get more information here.
2 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
2.5 tbsp Honey Demerara Syrup
4 cups Soda Water
Garnish with a dehydrated lime or lemon wheel.
Fresh Citrus Juice
The best citrus is juiced about an hour before use.
Honey Demerara Syrup
To make the demerara syrup, combine two parts water (2 1/2 cups), one part honey (1 ¼ cups), one part demerara sugar (1-
1/4 cups) over heat until the sugar has just melted. Cool. This can be stored in a fridge for up to 30 days. (If you can’t find demerara sugar, use plain brown sugar.)
You want to buy this in a bottle—preferably plastic. Only buy a bottle you’re going to use completely. Once it’s opened, it looses its carbonation too fast to keep. Store this in the darkest, coolest area of your fridge (that space that’s about to freeze, but doesn’t).
Dehydrate Lemon or Lime Wheel
Preheat your oven to 225 degrees. Place sliced citrus on a raised rack on a tray (or simply on parchment paper) for 1.5 to 4 hours until desired dehydration is achieved. Be sure to let cool before removing from parchment paper.
- Add the fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, honey demerara syrup, and soda water into a pitcher.
- Stir to combine.
- Garnish each glass with a dehydrated lime or lemon wheel before serving. Makes four glasses.
*If you’d like to opt for an alcoholic version of the drink, simply add one ounce of blanco tequila per cocktail.
Slow Cooker Buffalo Meatballs
2 pounds Laura’s Lean ground beef
½ cracker crumps
⅓ cup dry minced onion
½ cup milk
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoons black pepper
Sweet Buffalo Sauce
¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot Original Sauce, plus more to taste
¼ cup honey
¼ cup apricot preserves
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add eggs and gently whisk. Add all remaining Meatball Ingredients and mix until well combined. Roll meat mixture into desired meatball size**. Place meatballs onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, add all of the Sweet Buffalo Sauce Ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk to combine (only use ¼ cup hot sauce at this point. You can add more hot sauce to taste at the end of cooking).
- Line the bottom of your slow cooker with meatballs, drizzle with some Sweet Buffalo Sauce, then remaining meatballs followed by the remaining Sauce.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, gently stirring an hour after cooking. When done, taste and stir in additional hot wings sauce. (I add 1 ½ more tablespoons which is pretty spicy.) Keep warm until serving.