Don’t dread putting on a few extras pounds this holiday season and don’t deprive yourself of your favorite traditional treats. Sound like a complete contradiction? The holidays are a time to celebrate, indulge and enjoy—smartly and soundly.
The key to a healthful holiday is portion size. Try sticking to a workable calorie range of 300-350 calories once or twice a week, say a small to medium piece of pie or cake, two cookies and a piece of Grandma’s fudge, or a slice of pumpkin bread and some spiked apple cider. We’ve laid out a few of our favorite, environmentally friendly indulgences to help lighten the post-holiday guilt trip, while helping you enjoy the season to the fullest.
Calling All Chocoholics
For all you chocolate fiends out there, go ahead and live a little. Reach for a few squares of divine dark chocolate and get a boost of disease-fighting antioxidants. Research shows that dark chocolate (look for a cocoa content 70% or higher) may help lower blood pressure and benefit heart health. Throw in a few almonds or pecans and get an additional bonus of healthy, unsaturated fats. At 75 calories for four squares of dark chocolate and 150 calories for two truffles, you can treat yourself without feeling guilty.
There are a number of eco-conscious brands out there doing their job to green the world of chocolate. Try Endangered Species, whose organic chocolate bars aid animal-conservation efforts and come with intriguing ingredients like cacao nibs, pecans and antioxidant-rich goji berries. The company also supports economic development programs in Nigeria.
Alternatively, break off a square or two of an Equal Exchange chocolate bar in flavors like Organic Orange Dark or Organic Panama Extra Dark. Equal Exchange is committed to fair trade and gets its cocoa from worker cooperatives in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Panama. In a do-gooding mood? You can also try John and Kira’s chocolates, in exotic flavors like coffee whiskey and bergamot, which support urban school-garden programs in Philadelphia and Chicago.
The number of cocktail parties on your weekly social calendar can easily rack up during the holiday season, as can extra calories from alcohol and sugar-heavy drinks. Make a simple swap and save big on calories. One innocent cup of eggnog actually packs in 343 calories and 19 grams of fat! For a lighter switch, reach for some bubbly, instead. At 98 calories per glass, champagne is the perfect beverage to ring in the season. Try a pomegranate-champagne cocktail for a fun twist and a slight boost of antioxidants.
Red wine is also a heart-healthy pick at about 120 calories per glass. Studies show a glass per day may lower cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Watch out for fruity, sweet drinks and punches that can be laden with empty calories.
You can even do a little “greening” while tipping back your glass by choosing wines and champagnes from local and/or organic vineyards
A Hot Cuppa
If you typically run to the nearest cafe for an afternoon recharge after a long day of holiday shopping, you may want to rethink what you’re ordering. Certain drinks can easily break the bank, calorically speaking. A medium hot chocolate with whole milk typically tops 400 calories and 20 grams of fat, for example, while your favorite peppermint mocha latte can weigh in at 360 calories and 12 grams of fat.
Skim things down by downsizing your order to a small or tall, opting for non-fat or 2% milk and skipping the whipped cream. A skim cappuccino is just 60 calories, an apple cider is 115 calories and a small skim hot chocolate saves you over 200 calories and 18 grams of fat. If you’re dying to add a flavored syrup, ask for one or two small pumps to curb excess sugar and calories.
To green your coffee break, opt for fair trade and organic blends. You can also go a step further and bring your own reusable coffee cup so you’re not contributing waste to our landfills.
Fresh From the Oven
Relish in your favorite holiday apple pie, sugar cookie, gingerbread man or pumpkin spice muffin this season. Make your indulgences count by choosing wisely and staying mindful of portion sizes. Good choices are a small piece (about 1/8 or 1/10) of pie or cake, half a gigantic muffin (or just the muffin top, which everyone knows is the best part) and two to three small cookies.
Skip the boxed, frozen stuff, since they can be loaded with preservatives and additives. You can easily make things a little healthier this year by baking from scratch with organic or local ingredients. No time to slave over a hot oven? Support your community by picking up a dessert or baked goods at your local bakery.
Sprig.com‘s mission is to inform, inspire and motivate the mainstream smart, socially engaged person into becoming a little more green without sacrificing quality, convenience, style or budget. We point out what’s good about green living–how it benefits your health, looks, finances and of course the planet.