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Gobble Guilt-Free

Reduce calories and pump up nutrition with these holiday food tips.

Fill up on veggies. Lay off the desserts. Such sensible advice is often repeated over the holidays.  But let’s be realistic.  How likely are you to pile your 14-inch plate with roasted Brussels sprouts and salad and ignore the pie?

As a registered dietitian with 30 years of experience under my belt, I’ve learned that one day doesn’t make or break a healthy diet. That said, here are some ways you can pump up the nutrition, not be overstuffed and still enjoy dinner with family and friends.

Serving Suggestions

  • If you have several hours before folks sit down to a big dinner, put out cut fruits and veggies to nibble on.  A nonfat ranch or yogurt dip keeps kids busy!
  • Serve the food “buffet” style – versus family style with all the platters and bowls on the table. Otherwise the visual stimulation of the food keeps everyone eating as long as they sit at the table.
  • Eliminate ordinary, non-holiday foods such as bread or rolls that you can have any time of year.

Pump Up Nutrition

Potatoes: Use yellow gold or sweet potatoes instead of white. They’re loaded with Vitamin A! Add nonfat dry milk to mashed for extra calcium, protein and body.

Stuffing: Instead of sausage, substitute other flavorful items that pack in more nutrients and less fat or calories. I love cranberries, dried cherries, mushrooms and walnuts in with the usual celery and onions.

Gravy: Make your own instead of using premade ones that come in a jar or can. They are generally much higher in salt and fat. Invest in a gravy separator, which lets the fat rise to the top while you pour from the bottom.

Pie: Remember that pumpkin is the healthiest.  Canned pumpkin has just as much nutrition as fresh. Pecan is yummy and provides healthy fat but with that fat comes about double the calories of pumpkin. A smaller slice if this is your favorite!

Reader Ideas

Dietitian Althea Zanecosky weighs in on three healthy holiday eating tips from MetroKids Facebook fans.

Pumpkin Custard

Make pumpkin custard instead of pie, substituting evaporated skim for the heavy cream. Simply omitting the cream and crust saves tons of fat & calories.
— Caralien Speth, Princeton, NJ

Althea says: Evaporated skim milk or nonfat half-and-half are great substitutions that can take away calories and fat, but not taste and texture!  Cutting down on pie crust, where most of the calories come from, is great. A pie with only a bottom crust is another good idea.

Olive Oil Marinade

Instead of butter on turkey, we’ve always used olive oil as the base of our marinade. Omega 3s instead of just fatty butter. Tastes great too! 
— Tania Brown, Philadelphia

Althea says: Any fat that is liquid at room temperature is always healthier than one that’s solid.  If you put water in bottom of roasting pan, and turkey drippings fall into it, that’s always another good baster needing no oil or butter at all. The steam from the water tenderizes the turkey. That’s what I’ve done with mine.

Recipes Online

There are a million healthy recipes at FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org
— Sharese Sweetz Alston, Wilmington, DE

Althea says: This is a very healthful and helpful place established by Produce for Better Health! There are many good websites to help busy parents. My favorites:

Althea Zanecosky is a Philadelphia registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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