Tips to Make the Holiday Season Tasty and Healthy

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Memories of our childhood can bring back fond emotions especially during the holiday season. We look forward to the taste that reminds us of the food we shared with our family over the years. More than likely just reading this brings back memories of favorite family recipes.

If you have made a resolution to incorporate a healthier lifestyle you might find it challenging not to blow your diet goals during this time of year. Some recipes we crave are loaded with fat, sugar, and salt as well as those extra calories we don’t need. Staying healthy is so vital to our wellbeing, it is worth the effort to discover ways to modify recipes for our families’ health. One tip to change up a recipe is to make one modification at a time. It is not difficult to make substitutions or alter an ingredient or even prepare the recipe in a different way.

Here are some ways to swap this for that: 

  • If the original recipe calls for dry bread crumbs substitute whole grain bread crumbs or oatmeal. Graduate to incorporate more whole grains for added fiber and nutrients in your diet.
  • In baking; if butter or shortening is called for, substitute applesauce, or prune puree for ½ of the butter, if oil is called for use ¼ less. Use Cooking spray to prevent sticking instead of butter or shortening. Use liquid oils more often than solid fats.
  • Decrease the amount of sugar added to recipes by ¼ without totally changing the flavor and texture of baked goods.
  • Use lower-sodium versions of canned meats and vegetables, buy canned fruits without added sugar, rinse canned vegetables to reduce sodium. Frozen vegetables and fruits with no sugar or salt added is a great money saver.
  • Use evaporated skim milk for cream.
  • Add beans to soups and stews for lean protein.
  • If the recipe calls for all-purpose flour try substituting ½ of the flour with whole wheat flour, however, add a little more liquid to your recipe.
  • For ground beef buy at least 93% lean ground beef or even better use lean ground turkey or chicken.
  • An easy fix to keep the same flavor profile is to replace creamed soups in your favorite casseroles to the reduced fat and low sodium cream soups.
  • Use mushrooms or any vegetables for ½ the meat. Add vegetables to everything. Vegetables are a key to good health and they add lots of fiber that will help fill you up.
  • Slowly reduce the amount of salt and experiment using herbs and spices with no added salt. Use a little salt while cooking and don’t add extra at the table.
  • A great substitution for sour cream is low-fat sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt.
  • If you drink whole milk slowly change to 2% then maybe 1%. Your taste changes after a while and you will not notice the difference as much. There is no difference in the amount of calcium from whole, reduced-fat, or skim milk. If that is too much of a challenge, reduce the amount of fat you get from other animal products to help decrease the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
  • Add liquid oils like olive oil and nuts and seeds to get beneficial fats. This helps keep you satisfied, watch your portion size.
  • Use ½ the amount of oil to sauté. Bake, roast, grill, or air fry instead of frying in heavy oil.

When you make small healthy changes over time you benefit from the added fiber and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Reducing sugar, fat, and sodium helps prevent developing chronic diseases later in life or can help your body manage an existing chronic condition. Staying physically active can also be challenging this time of year, but as science has proven this is also a major key for staying healthy.

Who knows, you may develop a new family favorite recipe or make the original better than before. Healthier versions of family recipes are a good way to start a new family tradition that your family will appreciate and remember for years to come.

To learn more ways to incorporate healthier ingredients into your recipes, contact Rhonda Church at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Ashe County Center at 336-846-5850. Join her in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, EFNEP. You will also learn tips on how to keep foods safe to eat, how to shop and save money at the grocery store, feeding children and picky eaters, and learn how to prepare quick healthy meals in a fun casual cooking class the whole family will enjoy.