Enlightened Desserts Image Gallery
Enlightened Desserts Image Gallery

Fruits and protein-rich foods can help keep you away from unhealthy snacking this holiday season. See more enlightened desserts pictures.

©iStockphoto.com/SilviaJansen

By now, you know about the perils of yummy holiday indulgences. From sugar-laden cookies to beverages that can carry half a day's worth of fat and cholesterol in one glass, the holidays are full of opportunities to make poor nutritional choices. Having some healthy alternatives on hand when you're tempted to overindulge can be a good way to avoid overeating during the Christmas season.

Veggies to the Rescue

Fresh vegetables are an excellent treat that can help keep holiday eating under control. Most holiday buffets have at least a few veggie appetizers to choose from. When you eat these first, you feel fuller and can resist other temptations. If you're staying in and want to give raw celery, carrots and bell peppers more pizzazz, try serving them with salsa or a light peanut sauce. Want to make a traditional dip? Use fat-free sour cream and add your favorite salad dressing mix or spice blend. If you give them a chance, vegetables are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and they can be filling, too.

Bring on the Fruit

Fresh fruit really doesn't get enough respect. Fruit is a juicy, fiber-filled bundle of sweetness in its own convenient carrying case, and during the holidays it can be an easy way to indulge a sweet tooth without worry. An apple contains about 60 calories and comes in dozens of juicy varieties from tart to sweet. Apples, bananas, oranges, tangerines and pears are all easy to find during the winter months and are naturally low in calories and contain lots of vitamins and minerals. If you don't like them whole, chop them into fruit salad or whip them into fruit smoothies. For a special treat, cut bananas into chunks and freeze them [source: Davidson].

For a handy, on-the-go snack, try dried fruit. You aren't limited to raisins and prunes anymore. Try dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries. They're sweet and flavorful. Although most dried fruits don't have as much nutritional value as their fresh counterparts, they're still high in fiber and better for you than sugary snacks.

Add Some Protein

If you're looking for an afternoon snack that will take the edge of your hunger, foods high in protein may be the answer. Eating a protein-rich food may help you feel satisfied longer and keep you from eating too much when dinner does roll around. Almonds, low-fat string cheese, a hardboiled egg or even an apple slice slathered with peanut butter will banish the munchies without inspiring too much guilt.

Fill up on Fiber

Making your own trail mix from dried fruit, nuts and whole-wheat cereal will keep you from feeling as though the holiday party is passing you by. The crunchy cereal is satisfying without the fat and sugar, and steering clear of those macadamia nut and white chocolate cookies will make you feel downright righteous.

For a late night snack, pass on the pie and go for some rice cakes or air-popped popcorn instead. For added flavor, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese.

Choosing a few wholesome Christmas treats this year instead of fattening appetizers and desserts will save you from having to work so hard to get into shape come January.