There may not be much you can do to make chocolate bunnies more nutritious, but it’s very possible to make some simple switches to help make your Easter dinner healthier.
One easy way is to focus your attention on the foods that are healthy to begin with — like veggies and eggs — and make them a larger part of the spread while taking smaller portions of the more calorie- and fat-laden dishes.
Another way is to make some effortless substitutions to replace heavier ingredients that may be lurking in Grandma’s old recipes — and you may not even notice the difference. Keep in mind that you might need to experiment a little to ensure your substitution works correctly, as not all recipes allow for a 1 to 1 ratio swap.
Deviled Eggs — For many it just wouldn’t be Easter without these. Eggs themselves are a healthy food — but many deviled egg recipes call for lots of mayonnaise, which ups the fat content considerably. Luckily, the internet abounds with healthy versions that combine lower-fat fillings like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hummus or avocado combined with flavorful mustards, pickles, vinegar or even salsa. Experiment!
Ham — Glazed ham is one of the most traditional main dishes for the holiday and, while it’s fairly low-fat by nature, it can contain a lot of sodium and is often topped by a glaze that’s almost all sugar. To prevent this entree from boosting you over your day’s sodium limit, keep portions to about 3 to 4 ounces (about the size of a standard deck of playing cards). And instead of a super-sweet commercially prepared glaze, give your ham a little health boost by subbing in a less-sweet mustard- or fruit-based homemade glaze.
Scalloped/Au Gratin Potatoes — This creamy, cheesy comfort food can be lightened up without sacrificing taste. You can cut the amount of butter in half compared to many traditional recipes without noticing much of a difference — especially if you start with Yukon Gold potatoes, with their already-buttery flavor. One healthier cheese option is to use a lower-fat version of mild or medium cheddar (it still gets that yummy brown crispiness on top). Or you can branch out and use a smaller amount of a stronger-flavored cheese. Varieties like fresh Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyere, Swiss and extra-sharp cheddar add a lot of flavor without as much fat. And forget the heavy cream — whisk some skim or low-fat milk with flour and it works just as well for thickening.
Mashed Potatoes — There are many ways to lighten up mashed potatoes. If you’re ready for something really different, whip up one of the many cauliflower-based versions that are popular these days. If that goes too far for your more traditional-minded guests, keep the old family recipe but cut back on the butter and cream. Try whipped butter (more air means less fat) or half the amount of regular butter and sub in some chicken broth or low-fat milk to keep them creamy.
Asparagus or Brussels Sprouts — It’s great to give these vitamin-rich green veggies a starring role on Easter. Instead of drowning them in butter or hollandaise sauce, drizzle your spears or sprouts with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, chopped garlic (or garlic powder) and Parmesan cheese and roast on a baking pan at about 400 to 425 degrees until done to your liking. For even more flavor, drizzle on a little lemon juice just before serving.
Carrot Cake or Coconut Cake — By now you’re probably familiar with the applesauce-for-oil substitution trick — so take advantage of it here, or use crushed pineapple. Either will save you a significant amount of fat and calories and add some vitamin C while making your cake extra- moist. Substituting whole-wheat pastry flour for part or all of the flour adds fiber, vitamins and a mildly nutty flavor. Cut the sugar by a quarter and nobody will ever know. For the frosting, try light cream cheese.