Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…About Healthier Feasting

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, with winter holidays this month and next, are there any ways to make the feasting healthier?

A: You might anticipate some food indulgence between now and New Year’s Day, particularly because many families create special dishes that are enjoyed just once a year. Healthier FeastingGo ahead and sample them – with small portions.  If you are hosting a holiday feast, here are some suggestions for “lightening up holiday dishes without sacrificing tradition or taste” from Consumer Reports on Health:

  • FOR APPETIZERS, THINK FRESH – “Shrimp cocktail is festive and a better pick than fried hors d’oeuvres. Other healthy starters include spiced nuts or roasted chickpeas, pear or apple slices topped with a dollop of soft goat cheese (chevre) – which is lower in calories and fat than hard cheeses – and crudités with hummus or guacamole. If you prefer spinach or artichoke dip, use low-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.”

  • CHOOSE A HEALTHIER MEAT – “Roast turkey is the healthiest option, but if family tradition calls for pork or beef, the solution is to opt for healthier cuts.” (Beef tenderloin or top sirloin roast instead of prime rib; fresh ham instead of cured ham.)

  • SPICE IT UP – “If you use garlic, onion, and herbs (such as rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme) in a dish, you might not need to add salt. Acidic flavors, such as lemon or lime juice, can also perk up a recipe. (Lemon and garlic go with practically any vegetable.)”
  • BE SAVVY ABOUT SIDES – “Add fiber to stuffing by replacing half the bread with whole-wheat bread – or, better yet, quinoa or another whole grain –and add nuts and extra vegetables, such as celery, carrots, and onion. Cut back on the butter and use low-sodium stock to moisten.  For mashed potatoes, use Yukon Golds, which have a buttery flavor, and try swapping mashed cauliflower for one-quarter to half of the potatoes.  Make them creamy with evaporated skim milk in place of cream or butter….Instead of salty green beans or marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, try roasting carrots and parsnips or Brussel sprouts and red grapes.  Drizzle with olive oil, season, and cook until tender.   This brings out the vegetables’ sweetness and cuts prep time.”
  • LIGHTEN DESSERT – “You can often reduce the amount of sugar called for in recipes for cookies, cakes, and other baked goods by 10 to 25 percent with little difference in the outcome. (To cut 10percent, subtract 5 teaspoons for every cup of sugar in the recipe.) And to add some fiber, replace 25 percent of all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour, or half the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat white flour.  Like regular whole wheat, it contains all three parts of the grain, but it’s lighter in color, texture, and flavor.”

Even if you try only one of these suggestions, you will be making your holiday feast healthier for family, friends, and yourself.  Happy holidays!