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Healthy Holiday Options

Delicious alternatives to high-calorie foods, enjoying but eating less of your favorite treats, and having 3 balanced, calorie-conscious meals each day are among the ways you can eat sensibly and help prevent weight gain during the holidays. 

Breakfast and Brunch Beginnings

  • Homemade, high-fiber, granola 
    • Mix 5 cups of steel-cut oats with 2 cups of dried raisins, craisins, tart cherries, and dried blueberries
    • Add 1 cup of chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, chopped pecans, pistachios, unsalted peanuts, or unsalted cashews
    • Add ½ cup of chia, hemp, or pumpkin seeds
    • Stir together ½ cup water, ¼ cup canola oil, and ¼ cup molasses and pour the mixture over dry ingredients
      and mix them thoroughly
    • Spread the granola evenly over a large baking pan
    • Bake at 275° F for 1.5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes
    • Use the granola alone, with 1/2 cup of skim milk, as a topping on fat-free plain yogurt, fresh fruit, or whole grain pancakes
    • Makes 26 servings

      ¼ cup of granola contains 150 calories, 6 grams of fat, no sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein.
  • Whole wheat bran muffins
    • 2 cups of bran cereal flakes
    • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
    • 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed
    • 1/4 cup of honey
    • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
    • 1 1/2 cups of fat-free milk
    • 1 egg plus 1 egg white
    • 1/4 cup of canola oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
    • 1 medium banana, mashed
    • Mix dry ingredients
    • Mix liquid ingredients together
    • Add mashed banana
    • Stir until well blended
    • Combine liquid and dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten everything
    • Spoon the mixture into a greased mini-muffin tin
    • Bake at 375° F for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top of each muffin is brown and springy
    • Serves 24 (makes 24 mini muffins)

      Each muffin contains 80 calories, 3 grams of fat, 120 mg of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.
  • Whole grain pancakes or waffles
    • Replace 1/2 pancake mix or flour with a combination of whole wheat flour and rolled oats
    • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed
    • Replace butter with canola oil
    • Add a dash of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla
    • Top pancakes or waffels with fresh fruit
    • Drizzle pancakes or waffles with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or top them with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit
    • Serves 8 (yield is 8 pancakes)

      Each pancake contains 90 calories, 1 gram of fat, 230 mg of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

Outstanding Hors D’oeuvres

  • Delicious dip
    • Mix 1 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt with 8 ounces of fat-free cream cheese
    • Thaw, thoroughly drain, and add 1 10-oz package of frozen chopped spinach. (Cheese cloth is excellent for wrapping, squeezing, and draining thawed spinach)
    • Add ¼ cup diced onion
    • Add 1 minced garlic clove
    • Add 1 14-oz can of chopped artichoke hearts
    • Add 2/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
    • Add a dash red pepper flakes
    • Mix all ingredients well
    • Bake dip at 350° F in a greased baking dish for 20 minutes until it is thouroughly heated
    • Serve dip with a platter of fresh, raw endive leaves, celery slices, green pepper slices, yellow pepper slices, red pepper slices, jicama slices, tender baby broccoli fleurets, and carrot slices

      1 tablespoon contains 15 calories; ¼ cup contains 50 calories, 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 230 mg of sodium, 1 gram of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.
  • Dressed dates
    • Remove the pit from each date
    • Stuff them with garlic/herb goat cheese, chopped walnuts mixed with low-fat cream cheese, or chopped pecans mixed with bleu cheese

      Each date contains 66 calories, no fat, 18 grams of carbohydrate, no sodium, and 2 grams of fiber
  • No-guilt nuts
    • 2 teaspoons of brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons of cumin
    • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
    • Mix all spices together
    • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and add the spices
    • Stir mixture for 30 seconds
    • Add 1 pound of unsalted almonds, walnuts, cashews, or peanuts
    • Stir dressed nuts over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until they are coated
    • Transfer nuts to a greased baking pan
    • Bake at 300° F for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
    • Place nuts on paper towels to drain excess oils until they are cool
    • Makes 12 ¼-cup servings

      Each serving contains 230 calories, 20 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 90 mg of sodium, 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein.

Seasonal Sides

  • Roasted vegetables
    • Mix 4 cups fresh cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or cherry tomatoes with 1 teaspoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • Roast vegetables at 450° for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes
    • Season roasted veggies with your favorite herbs

      Each ½-cup serving contains 20 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrate, 90 mg of sodium, 1 gram of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.
  • Superb sweet potatoes and Granny Smith apples
    • Slice and steam sweet potatoes and apples until they are soft
    • Mash sweet potatoes and apples together
    • Season with ginger, cinnamon, or a dash of salt and pepper

      Each ½-cup serving contains 90 calories, no fat, 21 grams of carbohydrate, 20 mg of sodium, 3 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.
  • Great green beans
    • Steam or sautee green beans
    • Toss them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
    • Add toasted walnuts or chopped Canadian bacon

      Each 1/2 cup serving is 45 calories, 3 grams of fat, no sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.

Demi Desserts

Bite-sized desserts can give you a treat taste without the excessive calories of an entire dessert. If you enjoy eating and baking cookies during the holiday, reduce the size of your cookies so that a recipe that typically makes 3 dozen cookies makes twice that many. Divide sweet breads, fudge, brownies, pies, and cakes into bite-sized helpings. Enjoy your bite-sized treats with small sips of hot tea or coffee. Take small bites and savor them. Focus on taste rather than volume.

  • Perfect parfait
    • Make a simple syrup by simmering ½ cup sugar in 1 cup water until it reduces to ½ cup
    • Cool the syrup and pour it over 4 cups of mixed fresh strawberries, blueberries, pineapple chunks, sliced peaches, and sliced bananas
    • Refrigerate overnight
    • Make your favorite flavor of sugar-free instant or cook-and-serve pudding or tapioca
    • Layer fruit with pudding/tapioca in individual dessert dishes, beginning with a layer of pudding/tapioca on the bottom
    • Top with 1 tablespoon of sugar-free whipped topping
    • Serves 8

      Each serving contains 110 calories, no fat, 160 mg of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein.