Nutrition Column – Traditional Holiday Fare with a Healthier Flare

Making holiday goodies or preparing the holiday meal with all of the trimmings this year? Why not get a jump-start on a healthier 2006 by modifying your traditional holiday dishes and recipes so that they are more nutritious? Most traditional holiday side dishes and many baked goods and desserts can be prepared with less sugar, fat and salt without a noticeable difference in taste.  

To make your holiday dishes and recipes more nutritious, try the following suggestions.

– Replace one-quarter of the sugar in cookies, bars and cakes with an equal amount of nonfat dry milk. This not only reduces calories but increases the calcium, protein and riboflavin in the recipe.

– In breads, cookies, pie fillings, custards, puddings, and fruit crisps, try reducing the sugar in the recipe by one-quarter to one-third. Add a little extra spice or flavoring to compensate for the reduced sweetness.

– Many muffin, sweet bread and cake recipes have more fat than needed for a quality product. If the shortening or oil called for in the recipe seems high, try replacing up to half of it with unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt or prune. You’ll be amazed at the moistness and flavor.

– To reduce the cholesterol in baked goods, substitute two egg whites or an egg substitute product for each whole egg called for.

– To increase fiber, substitute whole-wheat or bran flour for half of the all-purpose flour called for in homemade breads, muffins or other grain products.

– To reduce saturated and trans fats, use vegetable oil in place of solid fats. When substituting liquid oil for solid fats, use approximately one-fourth less than the recipe calls for. For cakes or pie crusts, use a recipe that specifically calls for oil because liquid fats require a special mixing procedure.

– To minimize the fat in products, choose reduced-fat milk, cheeses, sour cream, salad dressings, mayonnaise and cottage cheese.

– For stuffing, use fewer bread cubes and more onions, celery and other vegetables. For something different, try adding cranberries or apples. Moisten the stuffing with low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth.

– When mashing potatoes, use skim milk, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese in place of whole milk and butter.

– When making gravy, use a gravy cup to separate the juices from the fat or refrigerate the pan juices, and skim the fat off the top before making the gravy.

– Cook vegetables in liquids such as broth or water instead of oil or butter. Use herbs and spices for flavor in place of salt.

– Put orange juice concentrate and a touch of cinnamon in the center of squash instead of margarine or butter.

– When making candied yams, leave out the margarine and marshmallows. Use fruit juice, such as apple juice, to sweeten, and add cinnamon for flavor.

– Prepare fresh green beans with chunks of potato instead of cream soup. Top with almonds rather than fried onions.

For more information about recipe modification, contact your local Cooperative Extension office and request fact sheet 9.316 Updating Food Preparation to Promote Health, or visit to download a copy.

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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension