Healthy ways to spice up your Christmas snacks

By Rebecca Torchia

“Run, run as fast as you can!”

As it turns out, the Gingerbread Man may have some good advice during the holiday season.

Many people see the holidays as an excuse to cheat on their diets with goodies like candy canes, Christmas cookies and home-cooked meals. Running as fast as you can might be necessary in order to fight weight gain this time of year.

The problem with the Christmas season is that many foods found at this time are either high in fats or high in sugars.

“My mom makes banana bread around Christmas time, and I love that,” Ian Detwiler, a sophomore engineering major, said.

Baked goods dominate the Christmas dessert market. Cookies come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The best way to limit fat and sugar intake with Christmas cookies is to pick the simplest cookies.

Choose cookies that “tend to not have as much of the chocolate, the frosting and all of that. That’s usually where you start getting into tons of higher fat and higher sugar,” Jane Jakubczak, coordinator of nutrition services at the University Health Center, said.

Cookies like gingersnaps and plain butter cookies are the best low fat options still capable of curing a sweet tooth.

Substituting ingredients can also make cookies healthier. Applesauce can be used in the place of butter.

While she considers it a good idea, junior biology and dance major Jessica Plaskon wouldn’t use these substitutions for her family’s gingerbread cookies.

“Since this specific recipe is a cherished tradition, I don’t think we would consider it,” Plaskon said of using applesauce.

Candy canes are the other favorite Christmas sweet.

It may seem harder to change the nutritional value of a candy cane, as they come prepackaged and individually wrapped, but there are a plethora of options online where sugar-free and even organic candy canes can be purchased.

But candy canes and desserts aren’t the only fattening part of holiday diets.

“A lot of the traditional, what we’d call home cooking, tends to use the less healthy ways of cooking,” Jakubczak said.

There are ways to make these butter-laden meals healthier though. Jakubczak suggested mashing sweet potatoes, because even if brown sugar and butter are added, they still have more nutrients than traditional potatoes.

It is also important to eat a well-balanced Christmas dinner. Fill the plate with a mixture of Christmas ham, mashed potatoes, and of course, vegetables.

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