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Healthy Holiday Meals By Johanna Hicks

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Basic Recipe Alterations for More Healthful Holiday Meals

                Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to stop and reflect on blessings.  It is also a great time to think about your own health and good nutrition.  Holiday meals can be healthier and taste just as good by using some basic recipe substitutions or alterations.  The sugar, fat, or sodium content of almost any holiday recipe can be reduced without a noticeable difference in taste.  Reducing sugar, fat, and salt are the most effective means of making holiday meals healthier.

                If a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use two-thirds of a cup.  If it calls for a half-cup of oil, shortening or other fat, use one-third cup. Remember that low-fat doesn’t always mean low-calorie, so be aware of both when making holiday food selections. Using reduced-fat or non-fat cheese, milk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or mayonnaise instead of their high-fat counterparts will make your recipes more health-friendly.

Processed foods typically have a higher sodium content, so consumers should be vigilant and check food labels for sodium content and other nutrition data.  If you would typically use one-half teaspoon of salt in a recipe, try a quarter-teaspoon or leave the salt out entirely (except in breads).

Modifying more complicated recipes may not always produce the desired texture, so it’s best to test the recipe before serving to friends and family.  Many traditional holiday foods can be healthy and nutritious choices as long as they are prepared properly and not ‘embellished’ in ways that take away from nutritional value.  Example: if cooking a turkey, leave the skin on to contain the flavor, but then remove it afterward to reduce the fat content.

For vegetables, the healthiest method of cooking is either steaming or roasting using a small amount of oil or cooking spray.  Try adding herbs and spices to enhance the flavor without adding any fat or calories.

Sweet potatoes have fiber, vitamins A and C, and manganese and are also low in calories, with a medium-sized baked sweet potato containing only about 100 calories.  The problem comes when you embellish them with added sugar, butter, and other ingredients.  A baked sweet potato with a hint of brown sugar and cinnamon is a far healthier option than one topped with butter and lots of marshmallows.

Another popular holiday item, the cranberry, which is loaded with phytonutrients and known for having anti-inflammatory properties and promoting health, as well as possibly reducing risk for disease.  Adding fresh cranberries to salads and baked items such as muffins, cookies and pies is a good way to sneak in some extra nutrition and flavor.

Even with healthier ingredients and preparation techniques, it’s important to remember to exercise restraint at holiday meals.  Because holidays provide more opportunities to eat due to social gatherings, office parties and other festivities, try to plan accordingly so you can keep your caloric intake in check…and don’t forget about getting some physical activity to help burn off extra calories and help relieve some of the stress often associated with the holidays.

Christmas Sewing Workshop

                Calls are beginning to come in about the Christmas Sewing Workshop.  Don’t miss this fun event!  We’ll have several make-and-take projects to help you save time and money…and they make great gifts for teachers, Sunday School class members, neighbors, or anyone else! Or if you have a project you would like to work on, bring it!  We’ll give you a short list of items you’ll need to bring.  I’ll have eight sewing machines available for using, or you may bring your own.  Regardless of sewing skills, you will have a great time!

                The dates are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, December 11-13, at the Extension Office, 1200 W. Houston, Sulphur Springs.  We’re located next door to the Southwest Dairy Museum and directly in front of the Civic Center.  We’ll start around 8:30 a.m. and end around 3:30 p.m.  Seating is limited due to the hands-on nature of the workshop, so please call 903-885-3443 if you would like to participate.

Closing Thought

Be a river of blessing, not a lake of accumulation – Vicki Hitzges

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone
903-439-4909 – Fax
[email protected]

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Author: Savannah Everett

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