Cooking Healthier Holiday Meals on a Budget

Tips for holiday meals that are healthy, affordable and delicious

(RxWiki News) Eating a healthy diet is a challenge any time of the year, but around the holidays, it gets even harder. But with a few helpful tips, you can have a healthy holiday without breaking the bank.

The problem with eating healthy food around the holidays isn't just a matter of willpower. That certainly plays a part when we're surrounded with sugary desserts and fat-heavy holiday classics. But there's another issue: the price.

Several years ago, those who maintained a healthy diet paid around $1.50 more per day for their food than those with less healthy diets, according to a 2013 study. While $1.50 may not sound like much to some people, for many families, that extra cost adds up quickly.

And around the holidays, when we're spending extra on gifts, traveling, and hosting big meals and parties, money can feel even tighter — to the point that any extra cost for a healthier food may seem like it's not worth it.

However, healthy eating doesn't have to put a strain on your budget. Check out these tips for cooking healthier holiday meals on a budget.

Go for Homemade

To save on your health and your budget, consider doing more homemade this year. If your family is in the habit of buying pre-made sides or entire dinners for the winter holidays, you may be getting fewer vegetables and spending more money than you would if you made it all at home.

Home-cooked meals tend to average at around half the cost of store-bought meals, and they typically contain more vegetables, according to a 2015 study.

Ask for Help

Potlucks are fun, and they can provide an added benefit: You spend less on food for the whole crew. Consider trying a potluck this year to cut down on holiday food costs.

Of course, you can't control the health factor in foods that other people cook. However, you will have control over your contribution. And if you're the organizer of the potluck, you can announce a health-focused theme.

Use What You Have

Food waste is a big problem in many parts of the world, and it's often the result of over-buying, forgetting what we have and trashing it when it has expired. But with a little planning, you can leverage what you have in your cabinets and fridge into a healthier, more affordable holiday meal.

Have too many apples and too little time to eat them all? Why not make a healthy Waldorf salad for the big meal? If you have a ton of canned beans gathering dust in the far reaches of your pantry, why not break them out and make a fiber-heavy and delicious three-bean salad? The possibilities are endless, but if you use what you already have, you spend a lot less.

Go Fresh for Appetizers

Skip the cheese plate and chips this year. Not only do these items drive up the numbers on your grocery receipt, but they also drive up the number of calories you consume at the holiday table.

Instead, buy fresh vegetables and a low-fat dip and set out a veggie tray. Crisp celery and carrots are just as dippable as chips, but they do a lot more for your health.

Spray Pans Instead of Spreading

Instead of slathering each pan with olive oil or butter, spray it. The spray varieties of olive oil and butter may be more expensive than the originals ounce for ounce, but you use a lot less of them while you're cooking. That can make them last longer.

There's an added benefit for your health: Less oil and butter means less fat and fewer calories. It's a win-win.

Think Thin with Holiday Cookies

Pretty much everyone loves cookies around the holidays, but these sweets come packed with fat, sugar and calories. If you're not willing to give up the treats entirely, why not make them thinner?

The thin versions of cookies are a big hit with those who love crispy cookies, and they provide all the fun and festivity of their thicker counterparts. The best part for your budget and health? They're smaller. That can mean you consumer fewer calories, and the batter goes further.

Talk to your health care provider before making any major changes to your daily diet.

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2021
Last Updated:
December 15, 2021