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Healthier Holiday Meal

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Johanna Hicks

By Johanna Hicks, Texas AgriLife Extension Agent, Family and Community Health Agent, [email protected]

The upcoming holiday season is rapidly approaching. This is usually the time of year when we overindulge on our food choices. However, holiday meals can be made healthier without any significant difference in taste by using some basic recipes substitutions of alterations. Dr. Jenna Anding, Specialist in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at College Station, reiterates what I have taught in my diabetes classes.

  • Reducing fat, sugar, and calories in traditional recipes: If a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, try using three-fourths or two-thirds of a cup. If it calls for a half-cup of oil, shortening, or other fat, try one-third cup instead. For recipes using cheese, milk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, or mayonnaise, use reduced-fat versions instead. And mashed potatoes taste great with defatted broth instead of butter. This reduces both fat and calories. Modifying a complicated recipe may not always produce the desired texture, so test it on family or close friends before going “all in” on a holiday meal.
  • Keeping traditional holiday foods nutritious: A sweet potato contains fiber as well as vitamins A & C. A medium-sized baked sweet potato contains about 100 calories, but many people add sugar, butter, marshmallows, and other ingredients which really ups the calorie count. Opt for just a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon for a healthier solution. Fresh cranberries contain phytonutrients and have anti-inflammatory properties that can promote health and may reduce the risk of disease. Adding fresh cranberries to salads and baked items such as muffins and cookies adds a little extra nutrition and flavor.
  • Cooking methods for healthier eating: You may leave the skin on the turkey during cooking and then remove the skin before serving to reduce overall fat content. For holiday vegetable dishes, steaming vegetables brings out the flavor without adding extra fat. Adding herbs and spices instead of salt can add flavor without upping the sodium content.

Even with healthier ingredients and preparation techniques, it is important to show restraint when eating holiday meals. You can expect to take in some extra calories during the holidays, but try to plan accordingly so you can keep your calories in check. While you’re enjoying the holiday season, don’t forget to schedule in some type of physical activity to help burn off those extra calories!

Hot Fruit Compote

(Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 15-ounce can peach slices, drained
  • 15-ounce can sliced pears, drained
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 10 maraschino cherries (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375ᵒ F
  2. Combine fruit in a 1 ½ quart casserole.
  3. In saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the maraschino cherries. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted.
  4. Pour over fruit; bake 25 minutes until heated. If desired, garnish with cherries and serve.

Note: I also like to add slivered almonds for a little crunch and protein!

Closing Thought

Opportunities are never lost – someone will take the ones you miss. – Andy Rooney


Contact Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family & Community Health Agent at the Hopkins County Office at P.O. Box 518, 1200-B West Houston St., Sulphur Springs, TX 75483; 903-885-3443; or [email protected].

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Author: Faith Huffman

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