Experts from Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center show ways to cut calories and pack in flavor to holiday dishes

By Banner Health

The temptation of holiday treats seems to be everywhere we go: at home, at work, at the homes of relatives and friends. According to the National Institutes of Health, the typical American will gain five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. However, some simple swaps with your holiday meals—and the treats you enjoy in between—can mitigate that weight gain.

Now is not the time to focus on losing weight, said Vivianne Swart, a registered dietician with Banner Health. Instead, she suggests you “maintain, don’t gain.”

“We want to show people that healthy food can be part of the holiday meals and can also be delicious same time,” she said. “We talk about foods that are high in antioxidants; we talk about foods with cancer fighting properties like green tea, blueberries or pomegranate seeds that are really popular around holidays.”

Heather Metell, executive chef at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, Ariz., said harvesting seeds from pomegranates is amazingly easy, can cost a fraction of pre-packaged seeds at the store, and retain their many nutritional benefits when served in their natural state. They also happen to be in-season this time of year.

“When it’s in season, you know it’s probably local, it’s going to have all of its nutrient value, it’s going to be inexpensive, and you are going to be able to eat with a lot of color,” Metell said. “That color is going to be nice and vibrant because it is in-season and it is ripe.”

Metell and Swart follow guidance from the American Institute for Cancer Research, which recommends at least two-thirds of your plate be plant-based.

“You can make vegetables a star of the meal,” Swart said. “You don’t just have to hide them.”