Healthy Holiday Cooking

Here are some simple ways to modify traditional holiday foods and recipes to reduce fat, sugar and sodium.  For more easy ingredient substitutions to make your favorite recipes healthier download Eat Well with Gina’s free handout on Tips to Cooking and Baking a Healthier Way!

Holiday Favorites

Baked Turkey – Choose a plain bird over one that is self-basting to lower sodium.  Remove skin before serving to lower the fat and cholesterol.

Gravy – Refrigerate the gravy to harden fat.  Skim the fat off the top. This will remove 56g of excess fat per cup.

Stuffing – instead of using butter or margarine to add moisture, use fat-free, low sodium chicken broth.

Sweet Potatoes – Sweeten with apple or orange juice and add ground cinnamon for flavoring instead of adding butter and marshmallows.

Mashed potatoes – use skim milk, garlic powder and a little Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.  Or use low-calorie margarine instead of butter.

Casseroles – Top casseroles with almonds instead of fried onions or candied pecans or marshmallows.

Eggnog – Eggnog can have around 340 calories per cup.  For a lower calorie, healthier version try blending 4 bananas, 1-1/2 cups skim milk or soymilk, 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt, and 1/4 teaspoon rum extract.  Top with ground nutmeg and enjoy!

Common Ingredient Substitutions

Unsweetened Applesauce for Oil – Reduce the amount of oil on the holiday table with applesauce. The fat-free puree can be used cup for cup in breads, muffins, and even boxed mixes for brownies and cakes.  For oil, substitute applesauce cup for cup.  For butter, substitute half of the butter with applesauce

Whole Wheat Flour for All-Purpose Flour – Try substituting whole wheat flour for half of the called for all-purpose flour in baked goods such as cakes and muffins to increase the nutrient content of your treats.  Whole grains provide many nutrients vital for health, such as dietary fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).

Vanilla Extract for White Sugar – Cut down on sugar by using vanilla extract, which is tasty and adds more flavor than sugar with fewer calories.  Use two tablespoons of vanilla extract for every cup of sugar.  This works in poached fruit recipes too.

Skim Milk for Full-Fat Milk – Instead of full-fat condensed milk, use condensed skim in pumpkin pie and eggnog.  When making cream soups, use fat-free evaporated skim milk in place of the cream or half and half.  You save 5 grams of fat and 39 calories per tablespoon.

Plain Greek yogurt for Toppings – Top off holiday pies with frozen or low-fat yogurt instead of whipped cream or ice cream.  When recipes call for sour cream, use plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt to make snacks that are lower in fat and calories.  Dairy products that retain their calcium content such as yogurt have calcium as well as potassium, vitamin D, and protein.

Herbs for Seasoning Salts – You can reduce salt by half in most recipes.  When the recipe calls for seasoning salt, such as garlic salt, celery salt, or onion salt try using herb only seasoning, such as garlic powder, celery seed, onion flakes, or use finely chopped herbs garlic, celery, or onions.  According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, a healthy adult should not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium a day, however many Americans consume twice that amount.

Nutritional Yeast for Cheese – Nutritional yeast flakes have a nutty, cheese-like flavor that can be used on everything from mashed potatoes to roasted vegetables.  And they can be combined with warm water and sea salt to make a vegan cheese sauce.  At only 45 calories for a quarter cup, they’re worth a try!  You can even mix with cheese to cut the calories if you can’t sacrifice all the real stuff.

Cacao Nibs for Chocolate Chips – These antioxidant-rich bits are unprocessed parts of cocoa beans used to make chocolate.  Substitute them in one to one where recipes call for chocolate chips to cut out additives such as sugar and dairy.

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About Gina
Gina Consalvo-Hassick, MA, RD, LDN, CDCES, NCC is a registered dietitian and is actively involved in various food and nutrition communities. She has counseled and assessed a wide range of patients and has experience in outpatient, inpatient, and consulting. Areas of specialization include weight management, eating disorders, and wellness nutrition.
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Gina Hassick,

(908) 827-1482

Office Location:
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