The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many it also
becomes a time for over-eating and weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year, which can really add up over a lifetime. The holidays don’t have to be equated with weight gain if we focus on a healthy balance of food, activity, and fun to stay healthy through the holiday season.
Traditions that define most family celebrations include food, drink, and sweets. If keeping your waistline in check has become a goal, indulging your sweet tooth without drowning in calories is possible. By using seasonal and fresh ingredients, minimizing butter, reducing sugar, upgrading recipes with fiber-rich whole grain flour, and using nuts creatively for added crunch and healthy fat, you can cook like a pro and please even the most discriminating family member or guest.
Here are some tips for making favorite recipes healthier:
Cut the sweetness. When making pumpkin pie or eggnog, reduce the amount of sugar by half and enhance “sweetness” by adding a bit more vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon. Try crustless pumpkin pie, or add whole grain flour to your pie shell recipe. If recipes call for sugary toppings like frosting, jams and syrup, use fresh fruit instead.
- Trim the fat and calories. In baked goods you can cut the fat by about half and replace it with unsweetened applesauce, prune puree or mashed banana. Instead of full-fat condensed milk, use condensed skim milk in pumpkin pie and eggnog. For gravy, heat low-sodium broth (or drippings with the fat removed); mix flour into cold skim milk and pour slowly into broth. Stir until thickened and season to your liking.
- Add healthy fiber. Upgrade your baked goods by switching to whole grain flour. Try whole grain flours in your baking like whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour. Buckwheat flour makes delicious muffins and quick breads, and millet flour’s light yellow color and sweet flavor works well in cakes, quick breads, and muffins. If gluten is an issue for you or someone you love, try brown rice flour. Its subtle flavor makes an ideal base for cakes, bread, muffins, and desserts. To make a more nutrient-dense baked good, substitute half of the brown rice flour with buckwheat, quinoa, or amaranth flour.
Instead of denying yourself some holiday favorites, setting you up for feelings of deprivation leading to overeating, try to make ‘wise’ dessert choices. Have a smaller portion and savor every mouthful. When you have choices, opt for desserts that are lower in fat and sugar. For example, if faced with a plate of cookies, you may decide to choose the sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies over shortbread cookies as they tend to be lower in calories. Choices like this can help ease the challenge of holiday overindulgence, and put treats in their proper place: fondly remembered annual favorites, providing satisfaction and anchoring to our family traditions.
Keep desserts simple and fresh, using techniques like broiling to caramelize sugar-dusted fruits. Sophisticated, high-end restaurants serve simple, elegant finishes to meals. Enjoy this holiday recipe with tart cranberries, seasonal citrus, and lovely cashew crème topping to end an elegant dinner.
Broiled Citrus with Cashew Crème Topping
Simple, fresh, seasonal fruits will brighten your holiday dinners and keep your guests refreshed and satisfied with a healthy dessert. Enjoy with or without the delicious cashew crème; this recipe is high in antioxidants & fiber, and the Cashew Crème is rich with healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
1 tangerine, peel and pith removed, sliced
1 red grapefruit, peel and pith removed, sliced
1 navel orange, peel and pith removed, sliced
½ cup raw cranberries
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
For Cashew crème:
1 ½ cups soaked cashews (soak overnight in spring water)
1 Tbsp. + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ cup water
To make broiled citrus: Heat broiler. Divide fruit among four shallow ovenproof ramekins. Drizzle with maple syrup. Place ramekins onto a rimmed baking sheet; broil, rotating once, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Top with a dollop of cashew crème.
To make cashew crème: rinse soaked cashews and place with all ingredients into blender. Pulse slowly, adding speed gradually. Add water as required to keep mixture moving down into blender blades. Makes 1 ½ cups: delicious on fruit salad, or cobbler.
Nutrition information (excluding crème): Calories (per serving) 82; Total Fat 0 g; Sodium 2 mg; Total Carbohydrates 21 g; Protein 1 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g
Cashew Crème: Calories (per tablespoon) 93; Total Fat 6.9 g; Total Carbohydrates 6.5 g; Protein 2.9 g; Dietary Fiber 0.5 g.