Keep the Yummy, Healthy this Holiday Season

healthy holiday recipe modificationsWelcome to the season of festive gatherings and indulgent eating. Nutritionally speaking, this is a tough time of year. We don’t want to give up delicious holiday dishes; however, we would rather not wreck our health through weeks of unhealthy eating. Fortunately, with a few modifications and a little moderation, we don’t have to do either.

There are three magic ingredients most cooks rely on to make their dishes taste better: salt, fat and sugar. Unfortunately, these ingredients can damage our health when used too heavily and consumed too often. Here’s the good news: you can still get that delicious taste by using salt, fat and sugar in moderation. Let’s look at ways we can reduce them.

Cutting the salt

  • Before adding salt to a recipe, think about why – or even if – it is necessary. Maybe you don’t really need it, or perhaps you could use half the amount called for.
  • Instead of salt, try herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your food. Other seasonings to try: pepper, citrus juice or zest, onion or garlic, vinegar, salt-free seasoning blends, nutritional yeast. Beware of spice mixes that may contain salt.
  • If using canned tomatoes, beans or broth in a recipe, choose a no-salt-added or low-sodium version of the product.
  • When baking, be careful about how much salt you remove from the recipe, as that can change the texture of the final product.

Lightening up with less saturated (bad) fat

  • In cooking, replace butter and coconut oil with olive oil or canola oil. This won’t work in baking, however, because you would get a completely different texture.
  • Pie crusts are full of butter or other highly saturated fat. Try a crust-less version of your dessert instead.
  • Buy lean cuts of meat: chicken and turkey breasts, beef “loin” or “round,” pork tenderloin. Consider serving fish in place of meat.
  • Try replacing some full-fat dairy products with low-fat or fat-free versions. For example, do you need both butter and cream in mashed potatoes, or could you do with butter and low-fat milk?
  • Roast, grill, broil or stew food instead of frying.

Scaling back on sugar

  • Bring out the natural sweetness in food by adding spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, mace, vanilla or almond extract.
  • When baking, try reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe by a quarter, or 25 percent. (For example, use 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.) You may be able to reduce it further, but this may affect the browning and texture of your baked goods.

A few more things to remember

  • Choose good quality ingredients, so that their natural flavors make the dish delish!
  • To boost the nutritional value of your meals, add more fruits and vegetables. Try adding dried fruits or extra vegetables to traditional recipes such as stuffing, quick breads and salads. An simple, tasty addition to any meal is to cut up a variety of your favorite veggies into similar-sized pieces (about 1 ½-inch), coat them in olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees until golden on the outside and slightly tender on the inside.
  • Indulge mindfully. If you have a generally healthy diet most of the time, you can allow yourself room for some holiday indulgences. The key is to enjoy them, with all your senses and without a shred of regret.

We wish you happy, healthy and tasty holidays!

Laurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

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Comments

  1. Chuck Palm says:

    Laurie is fantastic. Thanks for the tips! -Chuck

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