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Make Your Holiday Meal Healthier

Posted: November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday eating season...

That can mean overeating and weight gain, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still enjoy your favorite holiday recipes by making some healthy substitutions and keeping your portion sizes in check. Below are some tips from Michigan State University Extension to lighten up your holiday meals while keeping the flavor of the season.

  • Turkey – Choose an unbasted instead of a self-basted bird. This helps to lower the sodium intake. For a moist turkey, leave the skin on while roasting and don’t over bake. Take the skin off before eating, and make gravy to cover the meat after carving.
  • Gravy – Take the fat off the juices before making the gravy. You can save around 56 grams of fat per cup by doing this. It is easier to remove the fat if you have a fat-skimmer cup, but you can also chill the juices. The fat then rises to the top and is very easy to take off.
  • Dressing – If you’re not making this from scratch, purchase a low-sodium boxed stuffing mix and add sautéed vegetables – onions, celery, mushrooms, even apples! Bake outside the bird to avoid excess fat drippings and enjoy!
  • Potatoes – For mashed potatoes, use skim milk and a little garlic powder instead of whole milk and butter. You can also use low calorie margarine instead of butter. You may even want to cook some cauliflower or parsnips with the potatoes and mash them all together. This will increase your vegetable intake and not take away from the flavor of the potatoes. This is also a trick for picky-eater children.
  • Green bean casserole – Cook fresh or frozen green beans and add chunks of cooked potatoes and fat-free half and half instead of creamed soups. You can use almonds to top instead of the fried onion rings.
  • Yams – Candied yams are a part of many Thanksgiving celebrations. Instead of butter and marshmallows, try sweetening them with apple or orange juice and some ground cinnamon.

Or try this recipe for glazed sweet potatoes below:

Glazed Sweet Potatoes
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick slices
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. brown sugar
½ c. orange juice
½ c. water
     Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 1-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place potato slices in the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, orange juice, and water. Stir well. Pour mixture over potato slices. Cover and bake for 40 minutes or until potato slices are tender and glaze is thickened. Serves 4. 140 calories and 0 g. fat per serving.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.