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Healthy Holiday Cooking Tips


By Brahmlin Sethi, RD, Special Tree Residential Dietitian




Eating healthy over the holiday is easier than you think.  Incorporate some of these simple-cooking tips in traditional holiday recipes to make them healthier. 


    • Gravy — Refrigerate the gravy to harden fat. Skim the fat off. This will save a whopping 56 grams of fat per cup.
    • For dips, sauces and pie toppings use fat-free yogurt, sour cream and whipped topping.
    • Dressing — Use a little less bread and add more onions, garlic, celery, and vegetables.  Add fruits such as cranberries or apples. Moisten or flavor with low fat, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth and applesauce.
    • Choose reduced-fat or low-fat cheeses for salads and casseroles.
    • Green Bean Casserole — Cook fresh green beans with chucks of potatoes instead of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
    • Mashed Potato — Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic or garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
    • Quick Holiday Nog — Four bananas, 1-1/2 cups skim milk or soymilk, 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Top with nutmeg.
    • Desserts — Make crust-less pumpkin pie. Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of fattening frosting.
    • More than just sweet. When making desserts or eggnog, reduce the amount of sugar by half and enhance "sweetness" by adding a bit of citrus, more vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon. Try turbinado sugar, honey or molasses instead of sugar— their flavor means you can use less. If recipes call for sugary toppings like frosting, jams and syrup, use fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit instead.
    • Shake the salt out. You can reduce salt by half in most recipes too. Also go easy on salty condiments, such as pickles, catsup, mustard and soy sauce. Or try low-sodium versions if available. Try a new homemade dip, such as hummus and salsa. In soup and entree recipes, substitute fresh herbs and flavored vinegars for salt.
    • Trim the fat. In baked goods you can cut the fat by about half and replace it with unsweetened applesauce, prune puree or mashed banana. Instead of full-fat condensed milk, use condensed skim in drinks, desserts and, yes, even in fudge. For gravy, heat fat-free, low-sodium broth (or drippings with the fat removed); mix flour into cold skim milk and pour slowly into broth, stir until thickened and season to your liking.
    • Substitute applesauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads like banana bread. Try substituting a small amount at first, as the more you substitute the more the texture of the finished product changes.