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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Holidays the Healthy Way

By Sherrie Norris

The holidays are in full swing, which means family, fun and — yes, food! But, it doesn’t have to mean extra pounds. Even holiday treats can fit into a healthy eating plan with balance and moderation.

To avoid holiday weight gain, balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn. Physical activity and moderate food choices will help. The following tips are gifts you can give to yourself, your family and friends to maintain a healthy lifestyle while enjoying your special occasions.


Holiday Eating

  • Overcome the urge to overeat. Standing by the buffet table is a temptation in itself to constantly graze, causing you to overeat without realizing it.
  • It’s easy to overindulge during the holidays. Make sure to watch portion sizes and select one or two of your favorites from the smorgasbord of tempting foods, along with the healthier choices.
  • Leave those extra calories behind — limit your intake of foods high in fat, carbohydrates and/or added sugar.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Remember, calories add up. This is especially true during the holidays when we snack more. For a healthy snack, choose a piece of fresh fruit or veggie stick.
  • Substitute regular sour cream and cream cheeses in dips and cheese balls with non-fat or low-fat (Greek) yogurt and cheese.
  • Opt for baked chips, rather than fried.
  • Consider using natural sweeteners (even applesauce!) in your baking, rather than original called for in the recipes for candy, cookies, etc.
  • Trade in the eggnog for a cup of hot apple cider and save at least 100 calories immediately. A glass of eggnog can easily have upwards of 250 calories and is loaded with saturated fat. If you must have eggnog, make your own with egg substitute rather than eggs, fat-free milk in place of whole milk, and sugar substitute in place of sugar — you can still use vanilla and spices. Save even more calories by leaving out the alcohol.
  • For a great holiday gift, visit your farmer’s market or grocery store and select fresh fruits, vegetables, a jar of local honey, etc. Place all your tasty treats in a basket, and wrap it up with a big bow and lots of love.


Move More

  • Let the holiday spirit move you! If you make your family time active, you will become healthier and have fun doing it. Being physically active will help avoid or relieve much of the usual holiday stress.
  • If you already have a regular exercise routine, stick to it as much as possible. Especially during the holidays, plan your physical activity routine in advance — don’t leave it up to chance. Mark it on the calendar and consider it as important as any other appointment. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily, and more if possible.
  • Be adventurous and try something new, but also choose something you enjoy. Weather permitting, play some backyard football or Frisbee before the big dinner; dance or exercise to your favorite holiday music.
  • Make a plan (resolution!) to start a walking group with friends in the new year.
  • Cut back on your family’s screen time. Limit the number of hours your children (and yourselves!) spend watching TV, glued to IPads and phones. Instead, make a new holiday tradition. Take a brisk walk (or wheel) around the neighborhood to see the holiday decorations, or grab your bike, walking shoes or snow shoes and head out to the nearest trails or park.


And, now, as we start into this new Christmas season, here are a few healthier alternatives from our regular holiday snacks that might help you through the journey:


Cranberry Almond Protein Bars

2 cups salted almonds

2/3 cup puffed rice cereal

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a square baking dish with waxed or parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, add together almonds, cereal, cranberries and coconut; toss to combine. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, stir brown rice syrup, honey and vanilla together and heat over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Then let the sauce boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will bubble up,, so keep an eye on it to prevent it from running over or scorching.

Pour it evenly over the almond mixture, stirring quickly to coat everything before the sauce hardens; pour/spoon out immediately into the baking dish, pressing firmly with a strong spatula or the bottom of a cup to get it into shape.

Let cool for 30 minutes to room temperature. Then carefully lift up the parchment paper from the baking dish and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars to your desired shapes and sizes. Store in a closed container at room temperature for about a week. Or wrap individually, freeze and remove as needed.


Low-Carb Cookies

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 Tbsp. butter, softened

3 Tbsp. granulated Swerve sweetener

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

4 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar-free dark chocolate chips

1 cup coconut flakes

¾ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together coconut oil, butter, sweetener, salt, and egg yolks. Mix in chocolate chips, coconut and walnuts.

Drop batter by the spoonful onto prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 13-15 minutes.


Reindeer Pretzel Candy

(Well, relatively healthy, considering, and fun to make with the kids!)

Square Pretzels

Regular Pretzels

Hershey’s Kisses

Red M&M’s

Put unwrapped Hershey’s Kisses on top of square pretzels and bake at 350 for about 5 minutes. While those are cooling, break the regular pretzel in half to make your reindeer antlers. Stick a red M&M in the center of the Hershey’s Kiss to make the reindeer nose

Push the ends of the pretzel antlers into the top of your kiss.

Let chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes