Make some of your favorite dishes a little healthier in just a few easy steps.
The holidays are here, and with them are the traditional foods commonly indulged in during the season. Sure, the gatherings of family and friends typically centered on enormous, delicious meals are great. But what about the dreaded weight gain that invariably comes with holiday revelry? Not so much.
However, we do come bearing some good news: According to a much-cited study in the New England Journal of Medicine, packing on the pounds during the holidays is not nearly as terrifying a proposition as we commonly assume. According to the report, average holiday weight gain is actually less than a pound! The problem? That pesky pound is rarely lost over the course of the next year, so just 1 pound turns into 5 pounds a few years later.
Lets go ahead and dig into the foods that make up those tempting meals we love so much. Your Thanksgiving menu may resemble something like this:
- Mashed potatoes
- Roast turkey
- Green bean casserole
- Pumpkin pie with ice cream
Lots of holiday favorites in that list that you can’t imagine giving up, right? Heres the important message: With careful planning and a bit of creativity, you can have your cake or pumpkin pie and eat it too. A typical holiday dinner can turn into a satisfying new array of dishes, all while sticking to the basics.
Try these new healthy ideas, and you and your family will have a lot more to be thankful for.
Here are two ideas for each food. The first is geared at lightening up the load from calories and fat; the second is aimed at updating your menu and adding some pizzazz for 2014.
Potatoes are a great source of fiber and nutrients. Unfortunately, the butter and milk in mashed potatoes add an excess of fat and calories. Try baking the potatoes instead. Leave the skin on for added fiber and try a dollop of Greek honey-flavored yogurt, instead of sour cream, for a sweet and less fattening meal.
Twist for 2014
The Greek yogurt craze is good for more than just the topping on baked potatoes. Save fat and calories by substituting half the butter in your mashed potato recipe for fat-free plain Greek yogurt. Sneak in a healthy dose of vitamin C and vitamin K by substituting mashed, steamed cauliflower for half of the potatoes in the recipe. Not only do you lower calories without changing the color, you get a great new taste.
As long as you don’t fry the turkey, it can’t be bad, right? Wrong! Turkey itself is healthy, but doused in gravy, it becomes a fatty main dish. Keep your turkey the healthy food it is meant to be by switching to a 4 oz. skinless turkey breast. Since the skin is all fat, no nutrition, removing it is an easy way to a healthier dish.
The recommended serving size of turkey according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is 2-3 oz., two-thirds less than the portion on a traditional Thanksgiving plate. Giving your guests a 4-oz. portion evens out the meal.
Twist for 2014
Take off the fatty skin and don’t lose any flavor by adding a sweet, cranberry-flavored gravy.
Get excited by the numerous ways to prepare a healthier green bean casserole. The best way to make any dish healthier is to can the can and make it yourself. It may take a few more minutes, but it is worth it.
Twist for 2014
Mix the cream of mushroom soup in a can. Instead, saut onions and mushrooms. Add them to roasted green beans and mix in Greek yogurt that has been mixed with garlic powder and pepper. Top with whole wheat bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese.
2 oz. green beans with mushrooms, onion and Greek yogurt = 40 calories and 2 grams of fat
Can you end Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? Not a chance. Pumpkin pie with ice cream is the perennial finale to a great day of eating. Pumpkin is actually high in vitamins and minerals and lends itself to great, healthy desserts. You can substitute fresh strawberries for the ice cream and feel no more guilt.
Twist for 2014
Keep the theme without the calories. Mini-desserts are in, so lighten up dense pumpkin pie by filling shot glasses with a mixture of pumpkin pie filling and whipped cream. Top with a few sprinkles and you just updated your dinner!
Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD, CFT, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Fitness Trainer. She holds degrees in both Nutrition and Public Health and has completed the U.S. Food Laws course at the Michigan State University Institute for Food Laws and Regulations. A featured speaker at the American Culinary Federation National Convention, Portnoy is a published author and regular contributor to many websites. She has served as the food safety expert for CNN and Anderson Live.