Healthy holiday treats

We are smack in the middle of the holiday season.  And special holiday treats are part of the season’s charm. Everyone looks forward to special goodies. But these foods often come with a high calorie punch. Here are a few tips for creating healthier versions.

  • Use low-fat dairy. Whole milk products are sources of saturated fat. Yes, fat is not the villain is once was.  But one can overdo it. Using low-fat, skim milk, fat-free evaporated milk, and fat-free sweetened condensed milk can yield as mouth-watering a product as full-fat dairy. This is also true for the low-fat versions of sour cream. Plain Greek yogurt is a tasty substitute for sour cream in twice-baked potatoes and casseroles. I have used fat-free yogurt to replace half of the fat in coffee cake recipes with pleasing results.
  • Substitute egg whites for yolks. I have nothing against whole eggs. There is research that indicates healthy people can enjoy eggs several times a week with no ill effects. But at this time of year, we can go way over our allotment with all the egg-containing goodies around. With that in mind, two egg whites can be used in place of a whole egg, or use the egg substitutes in the dairy case.
  • Replace chocolate chips with dried fruit. Raisins, chopped dates, and cranberries offer flavors of their own and add a chewy texture. If you must add the chips, reduce the amount or add mini chips to spread the flavor throughout the product.
  • Create healthy dips to replace the sour cream types. Hummus, salsa, corn relish, and bean dips are more healthful choices than sour cream versions.
  • Watch those portions. Eat half of the special treat and share the other half or save for later. This is a helpful tactic during the holidays or at any special event.
  • Choose nuts for a healthy snack. Although high in fat, nuts contain fiber and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. An appropriate serving size for nuts is one-quarter cup.

Most importantly, enjoy time with family and friends during this holiday season.



Heathy eats for Thanksgiving

It is a little more than a week until Thanksgiving.  The local grocery store was crowded early this morning with shoppers buying turkeys and other food items for next week.  Many shoppers clutched lists and coupons and were intently reading labels while looking for the best buys.  And I was right there in the thick of it.

People are often curious about what a nutritionist will serve for a holiday meal.  Nuts and twigs or will she indulge?  How about a little of both?

Our family Thanksgiving meal varies from year to year, depending whether or not the chief cook and bottle washer feels like experimenting with new recipes.  And this also depends on whether the family members are game for a few surprises.

The general idea is to serve turkey with various sides.  These sides usually include stuffing, sweet potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, green vegetables (green beans, limas, or peas), sweet-sour red cabbage, dinner rolls, gravy, assorted relishes (carrots, pickles, celery, olives), and, of course, pumpkin pie with a topping.  Sounds traditional, right?  And with a few variations, the meal is healthy, too.

Usually we have turkey and just the breast portion.  The size works well with our family.  Sprinkling rosemary and thyme on the turkey or inserting the herbs with garlic under the skin before baking adds a tasty touch to the white meat.

Stuffing is a mix of white and whole wheat breads, browned and drained turkey sausage, whole egg, onion, celery, vegetable or chicken broth, and herbs to taste.

The sweet potatoes are baked in the skin and adorned with the individual’s preference of spread and/or gravy.  No one really misses the marshmallows or sugary additions found in potato casserole recipes.

Twice baked potatoes are prepared with a mix of Neufchatel cheese and low-fat sour cream.  I let the guests decide on salt and butter or spread.

Veggies, such as green beans, are also prepared without any additions except for toasted almonds or other nuts. Toasting brings out the nutty flavor and serves as a compliment to the vegetable.

Dinner rolls are homemade.  I do enjoy my bread machine for preparing the dough and making life a bit easier this time of year.  Canola oil works well for any fat called for in the recipe.

Dessert is always pumpkin pie.  Pies are made with fat-free sweetened condensed milk and whole eggs.  A graham cracker crust works well for the shell.  Sometimes I use a similar crust made with gingersnaps.   I heard a few sighs—she is taking this low-fat stuff too far.  Well, I do add a full-fat pecan pie to the meal that more than makes up for any fat loss.

This year I may experiment with oven-roasted Brussels sprouts. There are several tempting recipes available to try.  Browning the vegetable brings out its sweetness.

By making a few, easy, ingredient substitutions, holiday meals can be delicious and satisfying without causing the scales to tip.

And remember, if a dish does not turn out as expected, most likely no one will notice.  Thanksgiving is about family.  Enjoy the day.