Four Tips for Healthier Holiday Season!

It happens every year.  Friends, family, and clients ask me how to make holiday eating healthier.  We all look forward to pumpkin-spiced sweets and savory dishes, but the inevitable anxiety around unwanted calories and unhealthy eating follows.

Here are healthier alternatives to some holiday favorites:

1.  Spinach artichoke dip

One of my favorite things to serve at our catering events is this healthy spinach artichoke dip. No one suspects how healthy and fat-free this dip is.  Instead of using cream cheese and sour cream, marinade the artichoke hearts in red wine vinegar and spices.  Sautee the spinach with heart-healthy canola oil like Smart Balance, and serve on homemade crostini (French bread toasted in the oven, sprinkled lightly with shaved parmesan cheese if desired).  Not only are the calories reduced by 75%, but the recipe virtually eliminates fat and cholesterol. 

2. Heart-healthy sweet potato casserole

We all love to pile our plates with a heap of orange happiness, but there are ways to shave off 50% of the calories and fat while increasing fiber in this holiday staple.  I like to replace a significant portion of the butter with a small amount of honey and use a crispy topping made with toasted pecans and oats instead of marshmallows.  It’s a great way to reduce the calories per serving by 150 without compromising taste. 

3.    Crustless Pies

Pumpkin pie and cheesecakes can easily become a lower calorie, gluten-free version of themselves.  The first time I made crustless pumpkin pie, I served it in individual crème brulee-style ramekins for a unique twist on this holiday favorite.  Removing the crust can save up to 120 calories per serving, and the ramekins create a unique presentation.

4.  Skinny Cider Mule

We Wisconsinites love our Moscow mules.  But with 200 calories per serving, our waistlines may not be quite as happy.  A simple way to lighten up this holiday beverage is to eliminate the ginger beer (up to 80 calories per serving) and use ginger-flavored vodka to preserve the flavor and club soda to preserve the carbonated liquid profile.  To give it a holiday twist, add an ounce of spiced apple cider (~10 calories) and garnish with a few pomegranate kernels or cranberries speared with a toothpick and top it with a sprig of rosemary.