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Healthy Holiday Cooking Tips

Healthy Holiday Cooking Tips

By Linda Gastelum, RDN

healthy holiday cookingAppetizers

  • Choose appetizers that help you get in your “5-a-day” fruits and veggies such as a fresh vegetable platter or fruit kabobs
  • Choose appetizers that add fiber by using whole grains and legumes such as roasted red pepper spread on whole wheat rounds or creamy garbanzo dip with whole wheat pita chips
  • Contrast flavors and textures (crunchy smooth, hot, cold, spicy)
  • Substitute in low-fat or non-fat sour cream or yogurt for your dips
  • Instead of regular nuts, try soy nuts


  • Use a fat separator or zip-lock bag to obtain pan juices while eliminating the layer of fat
    – Tip: Cut a small whole in bottom of bag and allow only juices to flow out—discard fat layer and bag.
  • Freeze pan drippings so you can remove hardened fat (removes 56g of fat per cup)
  • Skip drippings and use broth thickened with cornstarch or pureed potatoes—add broth for flavor or to thin it down, add prune, apricot or apple juice for a kick!
  • Try pineapple salsa, mango chutney or fruit compote on top of or on the side of meat, poultry or fish for a easy and zippy flavor enhancer


  • Other dessert ideas: baked apples, fruit tarts, fruit pizza, bread pudding
  • Try pumpkin-tofu pie for a custard-y silken texture with no saturated fat and soy isoflavones
  • To intensify rich flavor of chocolate, add ½ to 1 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • Try decreasing sugar in recipes by ¼ to 1/3 —to compensate increase sweet spice, double vanilla, or almond extract, or you can add citrus zest for more flavor
  • In baking, substitute half of oil/butter in recipe with applesauce or prune puree
  • Try fat-free sorbet in lemon or strawberry
  • Using a streusel topping rather than second pie crust saves fat and calories
  • When making holiday cookies, use small cookie cutters or cut bars into smaller pieces
  • Top cakes with powdered sugar, cinnamon or cocoa instead of thick frosting
  • Consider poached pears—poach in dessert wine or cinnamon and clove-spiked apple cider
  • For pumpkin pie, use nonfat evaporated milk for filling and eliminate crust and serve soufflé style

Alternatives to Cocktails and Calorie-laden Drinks

  • Sparkling juices
  • Warm apple cider
  • Spritzer made with fruit juice and seltzer
  • Flavored, calorie-free water
  • Low-sodium vegetable juice
  • Light egg nog (or dilute regular with skim milk)
  • Soy nog
  • Warm spiced cider punch