Lighten Up Your Holiday Fare
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Published on December 04, 2018

mashed sweet potatoes

Lighten Up Your Holiday Fare

Eating healthier around the holidays doesn’t mean that you have to turn down a slice of pecan pie or a serving of your mom’s green bean casserole.

“Take a balanced perspective on holiday eating,” said Mary Beth Russell, RD, LN, CDE, Avera Registered Dietitian. “You can still have your holiday favorites, but consider trying a few substitutions in recipes or making a new holiday dish to try, and balance it out with adding in exercise.”

Follow the 80/20 rule. “We eat well 80 percent of the time. Twenty percent should include holidays and special events. But it should be a strong 80 percent,” Russell said.

In the kitchen, use healthier substitutes to cut calories and fat in recipes. Many lighter versions of traditional holiday favorites still maintain the flavor of the original. For example, you can make a lighter pudding version of pumpkin pie with instant vanilla pudding, skim milk, canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice.

You probably have several common ingredient substitutes in your kitchen pantry. Potato puree or potato flakes can stand in for cream to thicken soups. Instead of using a traditional pastry pie crust, make one with nuts, graham crackers or phyllo dough to cut back on calories. One note of caution: Experiment in advance of your holiday meal to ensure the substitution is a success.

Instead of reaching for all the same recipe cards this holiday season, make one new healthy recipe. “Be that person at the holiday party who brings a healthy dish,” Russell said.

Along with cooking healthier, don’t forget that exercise is part of the equation. “Exercise becomes the best way to fight the holiday-eating frenzy,” Russell said.


Pumpkin Whip

  • 1 small package diet instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin, canned
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 8 ounces reduced-fat whipped topping
  • 4-6 graham crackers, crushed

Make pudding according to package directions using the skim milk. Let set in refrigerator until firm. Stir in pumpkin and spice. Fold in whipped topping until well blended. Spoon into dessert cups. Top with crushed graham crackers.

(Recipe from Avera Heart Hospital)

Apple, Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

  • 16 ounces package cornbread stuffing
  • 8 ounces lean turkey sausage
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 apples, cored and diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock

Place packaged cornbread stuffing in a large bowl. Spray skillet with non-stick spray. Heat to medium heat. Add sausage and brown. Add apple juice. Simmer and stir until juice evaporates. Add to bowl with stuffing. Sauté onion and celery in butter until tender. Add to cornbread stuffing along with remaining ingredients. Toss with enough chicken stock to moisten stuffing as desired. After stuffing chicken breast, bake remaining stuffing in a covered baking dish about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove cover and continue baking until top is golden brown (about 15 minutes).

(Recipe from Avera Heart Hospital)

Mashed Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 6 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 5 tablespoons honey, divided
  • ¼ cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Nutmeg, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place potatoes in a single layer on two large cookie sheets. Spray with olive oil cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Place the potatoes, ¼ cup honey, butter, sour cream and nutmeg in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Remove and place in a serving dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of honey.

(Recipe from Avera Heart Hospital)

Ingredient Substitutions

Instead of … Try this …
1 cup cream soup 1 cup thick, homemade white sauce made with skim milk
Cream to thicken soups Potato puree or potato flakes
Chopped nuts Almonds, soy nuts, walnuts
Grated mild cheddar cheese Reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 can regular evaporated milk 1 can evaporated skim milk
Pastry pie crust Nut crust, graham cracker crust, phyllo crust

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