Enjoy your dinner without the dreaded belly bloat.

holiday meal belly bloat

Holiday meals tend to be elaborate affairs: we get the chance to spend time with loved ones, and dinner is usually an Instagram-worthy feast. As much as we excitedly anticipate holiday dinners, we simultaneously dread that after-dinner belly bloat that always follows. This year leave your leggings and stretchy pants at home—we’ve got tips and suggestions from Stefaine Senior, a Registered Dietician in Toronto (stefaniesenior.ca), on how to plan your holiday menu with healthy options that won’t compromise on flavour.

Healthy Choice 1: White Meat

Fear not—we aren’t suggesting you ditch turkey all together (that would just be mean)! Senior suggests choosing white meat over dark meat, and skipping the skin: “white meat is lower in calories, fat and saturated fat. The skin is full of calories and fat.” The skin also tends to be very salty, since that’s the surface that we season when preparing the turkey to cook.

Healthy Choice 2: Load up on Vegetables

Hit up the produce section, and stock up on vegetables! Senior recommends: “Load half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or brussel sprouts. This will help you limit the amount of higher calorie items, like turkey, stuffing and potatoes. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fibre and water, which will fill you up.” If you want to add some extra flavour to your veggies, try reaching for a wedge of lemon rather than butter and salt—the lemon will add a great burst of flavour without any extra calories.

Healthy Choice 3: Leaner Side Dishes

Many of our favourite side dishes could do with a healthy makeover. “When making mashed potatoes, try using half potatoes and half cauliflower, and low fat milk rather than full fat milk or cream,” suggests Senior, “this will help you save calories without sacrificing taste.” Often it is simply a matter of making healthier substitutions, such as using quinoa or whole grain bread in stuffing as opposed to white bread.

It’s impossible to please everyone, especially when you’re catering to picky palettes. Substitutions and modifications will make the meal taste different, but different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you switch out regular white potatoes for yams (full  of vitamin A!), squash or pumpkin, you can introduce all kinds of new flavours that your family might not have tried otherwise.

Healthy Choice 4: Dessert Portion Control

If you want to eat dessert, don’t deprive yourself because you feel like it’s unhealthy—just take small piece. “If you plan on having dessert, then cut back on your dinner portion—especially the starches—to make room for a carbohydrate-dense dessert,” advises Senior. If you’re baking, many recipes offer healthy alternatives for the ingredients, like using two egg whites instead of one whole egg, or apple sauce in place of vegetable oil.