Unfortunately, holiday weight gain isn’t a myth. Researchers have found most people gain around one pound between November and January. Overweight or obese adults are most likely to add weight during these months, with 14 percent gaining over five pounds.

While you can’t control the number of work engagements or private parties you’re obligated to attend, you can make an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the season. Nutrition scientists have long understood that diet has a major impact on health, including mental health. Eating better can have a long-term impact on your mood and cognitive function. Here are some effective ways to put a wellness-conscious twist on your family’s favorite holiday dishes.

Mushroom Gravy

Choosing plant-based options can have a more positive impact on blood cholesterol than non-vegan approaches to a low-fat diet, according to Stanford Research. Gravy is typically one of the highest fat holiday offerings, but a few simple changes can drastically improve its nutrition profile. Simply choose vegetable broth instead of turkey drippings, use vegan margarine in place of butter, and include sauteed mushrooms for a lovely texture.

Sugar-Free Cranberry Relish

Researchers are increasingly discovering that white sugar can play a role in heart disease. Reducing the sugar in holiday dishes could help reduce heart disease risks and lower your caloric intake. Sweeten this season’s cranberry relish with grated apple and orange juice instead of white sugar. Your family and friends may even prefer this slightly tart alternative.

Walnut and Fig Pie Crust

Nuts contain antioxidants, which are a powerful tool for fighting cancer-causing free radicals that can cause cancer. Take a healthier pie crust to your holiday events by using ground walnuts and dates in place of white flour. It’s the perfect basis for a vegan apple or pumpkin pie.

Roasted Veggies

A diet high in fruits and vegetables is linked to optimal health. Whole foods, in particular, can provide crucial nutrients. Roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips with herbs and olive oil can make a colorful, satisfying, and healthy holiday addition to any menu or potluck.

Whole Grain Rolls

Whole grains are a powerful way to defend your body from a host of deadly diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Choosing whole grain rolls as your holiday bread selection is a healthy and simple way to make better choices this season.

Making better food choices during the holidays doesn’t require special menus. With simple substitutions and modifications, you can improve the nutritional profile of traditional favorites.

Sources:

http://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/58/12/378

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=800648&fileId=S0029665101000167

http://nutrition.stanford.edu/projects/plant_based.html

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/899.short

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2012/fo/c2fo10152a)

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00103.x/full

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=807108&fileId=s0029665103000211