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How to Lighten Your Holiday Meals
By: Kalli Musto, MS, RDN, LDN, Wellness Coach for Highmark Inc.


Picture your perfect holiday meal: Do you see ham or turkey piled high next to a mound of mashed potatoes, a hearty serving of stuffing followed up by a slice of pumpkin pie with extra whip? Sometimes holiday meals can be followed by guilt and regret about the overindulgence.

You can still enjoy your holiday favorites without losing flavor by making some simple adjustments to help cut down on some of the sugar, salt and fat that make holiday meals famous for throwing you off your normal eating routine.

  • Try roasting your vegetables this year or try marinating them in citrus juices or vinegar rather than preparing them in casseroles or pan-frying in butter. If you can’t get the other family members on board with nixing the green bean casserole this year, try swapping out canned soup for low-fat or non- fat milk. Other alternatives include using a vegetable-based cooking soup such as cauliflower or topping your casserole with sliced almonds instead of fried onions.

    Just about every vegetable can be roasted. From root vegetables like parsnips, potatoes and carrots to the cruciferous like broccoli, brussels sprouts and onions, you can be sure to turn any picky eater into a veggie lover. Here is a simple way to roast your vegetables:
    1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
    2. Select your vegetables and cut into bite size pieces.
    3. Choose your oil. You can’t go wrong with a mild option like olive oil*.
    4. Toss your vegetables with seasonings. Thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, and pepper all make delicious choices.
    5. Spread your vegetables out onto a baking sheet. Do not overcrowd the pan or it will cause the vegetables to steam rather than roast.
    6. Roast until you see the vegetables brown and are fork tender. Start checking after 15 minutes and keep roasting until you see some charred bits. Charring is the secret to flavorful vegetables.

      *note: avocado oil is another great choice as it has a higher smoke point and can withstand high heat better than other oils while still providing the health benefits of unsaturated fats
  • Swap out butter and cream in your mashed potatoes for low sodium chicken broth, a small amount of garlic-infused oil or plain Greek yogurt. This will add plenty of flavor but cut down on excess fat. Try switching out half of the amount of white potato for cauliflower and blend for a lower calorie choice. Sweet potatoes can also be roasted with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup instead of in a casserole with marshmallows.
  • Lower calorie desserts include baked apples with an old-fashioned oat topping or angel food cake topped with in-season fruit. While baking, oil can be switched out for apple sauce and low-fat or fat- free milk can replace cream.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply improve your nutrition through healthier choices, the holidays don’t make it easy to stick to your wellness goals. Trying these simple swaps can help lighten your holiday plate.



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