The holidays can be a tough time to stay healthy and maintain your weight. In fact, most Americans gain an average of five to 12 pounds between Halloween and New Year. And what’s worse, they don’t lose that extra weight, so it compounds every year. But, we can turn that trend around and be good role-models for our families. We can keep the holiday spirit throughout the season without the holiday hangover in the New Year. The holidays are stressful enough with shopping, decorating, parties, and mall traffic! So here are my stress-free tips for getting all the joy out of the season while avoiding the holiday bulge.

Balance out your binges. The holiday season is about six weeks long. If you go to every party and eat everything at each one, you will certainly gain weight. To help spread out the calories, chose one party a week and let yourself enjoy the food. Limit your food intake (or simply decline the invite) at all other parties.

christmas party mixed drink recipe cranberry belliniImplement the 15-minute rule. Give yourself that much time before you start the food and cocktails. Grab a water when you first arrive to keep your hands busy. People are usually nervous at the beginning of an event, so you’re more likely to dive into the buffet table and end up eating more. Make the rounds and socialize first.

Don’t stand near the hors d’oeuvres. Take a few things, then walk away and get as far from them as possible so you’re not tempted to pick constantly.

Don’t ban your favorites. The holidays are special, so decide which festive foods you really want and enjoy them, but skip those you aren’t all that crazy about. If you love peppermint fudge, have some. But, if you could take or leave gingerbread cookies, don’t waste your calories.

Keep in-between meals low-calorie. Balance out party splurges with healthy choices at other meals. Skip chips or dessert at meals just before and after your holiday parties. It’s a lot more fun to indulge at a special event. Remember that milk shakes and fries can be eaten year-round, but eggnog and pumpkin pie only come around once a year.

Your health can be a gift to yourself & your family. After all, it could mean you have more holidays to spend with them. I’ve jumpstarted your healthy holiday with my delightfully delicious Holiday Potato Skins. You can find this, plus recipes for Salmon Cakes, Bread Pudding Bundles, and Cranberry Bellini in my book Don’t Diet, Live It! And get holiday deals, tips, and inspiration on my website!

Holiday Potato Skinshealthy party food recipe potato skins

Ingredients:
16 medium sized red potatoes (about 3 lbs total)
1 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 T chopped garlic
½ cup diced onion
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup lowfat plain Greek yogurt (or lowfat sour cream or Neufchatel cheese)
1 T butter
½ t salt, ¼ t pepper
1 roasted red pepper from a jar, sliced into 16 1-inch strips

Directions:
Add potatoes to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 4 minutes. Check with a fork to see if they have softened. You want them to still be fairly firm (because they need to hold their shape and they will be baked again). Remove from heat, drain potatoes and allow to cool and dry.
Meanwhile, heat EVOO in a sauté pan over medium low heat and add garlic and onion. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until onions have browned slightly. Turn off heat and add peas. Allow this mixture to cool.

Once potatoes are cool, slice in half and scoop out some of the flesh, leaving about ¼-inch of the flesh with the potato skin. Add scooped out potato, plus onion and pea mixture, yogurt, butter, salt, and pepper, to a food processor. Pulse until mixture is combined and smooth, but not whipped. It should be a light green color.

Fill each of the potato skins with the mixture. Place each skin on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Watch closely for browning of the edge of the skins, you want them to be golden brown and the filling to be warmed through. Remove from oven and place on a serving platter. Top each skin with a roasted red pepper strip.

These are perfect for a party because they are an adorable holiday-colored finger food. They are great hot, but they can sit out and be enjoyed at room temp. Plus, red potatoes are high in iron, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Your guests will love this potato skin, and they won’t even miss the bacon, cheese, and high-fat sour cream!

Makes about 4 dinner or 8 cocktail party servings.