12/23/2013 05:00 EST | Updated 03/03/2014 04:59 EST

Healthy Twists On Holiday Standards

christmas tree with vegetables

With the holidays just around the corner, it can be easy to get off track in terms of healthy eating. So many parties, so many buffets, so many seasonal treats! Instead of accepting those extra calories, get a head start on planning new, healthy traditions that will benefit your whole family.

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Smart substitutions

Are your go-to holiday dishes loaded with fat and calories? It’s never too late to tweak them into healthier versions. For instance, try serving mashed sweet potatoes (made with low-fat milk and without butter) instead of regular mashed potatoes. Serve steamed green beans or asparagus instead of a typical bean casserole cooked with butter. Do you usually start Christmas day off with sugary pastries? Keep it light this year with some fresh fruit and low fat yogurt. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has lots of yummy and healthy holiday recipes that you can feel good about serving to anyone in your family.

Get outside

Considering most holiday traditions revolve around food, it’s no wonder we tend to eat far too much over the festive season. This winter, make some new traditions with your family by planning some outdoor activities and excursions. Ice skating, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and even building a snowman will get you off the couch and burning calories.

Re-think your drink

When beverages like eggnog and peppermint mochas are flowing during the holidays, it can be tricky to quench your thirst while making a smart choice. Did you know that some of those fancy holiday lattes have as much as 500 calories and 40 grams of sugar? Yikes. When you’re looking for something to sip on this winter, check the nutrition information beforehand (if possible), paying specific attention to the drink’s serving size, and percentage of your daily intake of things like sodium. If you choose to drink alcohol, alternate with sparkling water with lime, low-sodium vegetable juice, or cranberry juice with club soda.

Cook with the kids

Serving your kids healthier foods is great, but getting them involved in cooking will do even more to reinforce healthy habits in their life. The holidays are a perfect time to connect as a family. Create new holiday food traditions together with your kids.

Prioritize your plate

When you’re putting food on your plate, make sure that half of your plate is filled with veggies or fruit. One quarter with meat or meat alternatives, and the other quarter for grain products. Don’t forget about milk and milk alternatives, like a glass of skim milk on the side.

Snacking the smart way

Santa gets the same old cookies and milk at every house, so let your kids delight him with some variety by serving fresh veggies and hummus this year. Avoid serving sugary or salty snacks to your family as well; try munching on things like fresh veggies and fruit.

Become a portion perfectionist

You don’t need to deny yourself your holiday favourites -- after all, you only get to enjoy them once a year -- so long as you mind your portions and be mindful of what you are eating. Follow the recommendations set out in Canada’s Food Guide and make sure to include your veggies and fruit among your holiday favourites.