Healthy Holiday Recipes

Joshua Espinoza, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Posted Nov 13, 2012

Holiday recipes by Mary Branom

Butternut Squash and Red Peppers


7 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (3.5 pounds)

1.5 cups (1-inch) pieces of red bell pepper

3 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon of salt (optional)

2 garlic cloves, minced

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons of grated fresh parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 450F. Combine first seven ingredients, toss well. Place in 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle with cheese. Makes five, 1-cup servings.

Nutritional information:

Each serving has 160 calories (19 percent from fat); fat: 3.4g (sat 0.9g, mono 1.6g, poly 0.5g); 6.2g protein, 31.5g carbohydrate, 5.8g fiber, 2mg cholesterol, 2.3mg iron, 212mg sodium, 143mg calcium.

Autumn apple salad


1/2 cup of unsweetened apple juice

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of canola oil

4 teaspoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Dash of ground nutmeg

1 medium red apple, chopped

1 medium green apple, chopped

6 cups of torn green leaf lettuce

6 cups of torn red leaf lettuce


In a large salad bowl, whisk the first 10 ingredients until blended. Add apple and toss to coat. Place torn lettuce over apple mixture (do not toss). Refrigerate and toss just before serving. Makes 12, 1-cup servings.

Nutritional information:

Each serving has 50 calories, 2g fat, 0 cholesterol, 41mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein.

The holiday season is upon us, bearing a bundle of traditions, moments of cheer, time with loved ones and an assortment of waistline-expanding food.

Unfortunately, that tempting array of greasy, fried, sugary fare is as much of a holiday staple as giving thanks and mistletoe, which is why many Americans tend to struggle with their weight and health during the otherwise joyful season.

To alleviate associated stress that comes with fear of extra holiday pounds, and to avoid the unwanted gift of extra weight, North Colorado Medical Center certified dietician Mary Branom offers a few tips to make the 2012 holiday season a healthier one.

"One thing that I tell the patients that I work with is that they can modify some of what they're doing instead of thinking they have to modify absolutely everything," Branom said. "There are some simple tricks they can be using with recipe modification so they can lower the fat and lower the sodium in dishes without necessarily changing the taste of everything on their typical holiday menu."

Ingredient alternatives

--Remove the skin from meat. (It saves about 50 calories per cup.)

--Use skim or 1 percent milk for mashed potatoes rather than whole milk or cream. (Using chicken broth for this dish, instead of dairy, can save about 80 calories per cup.)

--Don't use the turkey fat for gravies, but instead use fat-free turkey broth.

--Don't add giblets to gravy. (This saves 289 calories and 17.2 grams of fat.)

--Serve whole wheat or multi-grain dinner rolls. (Lower on the glycemic index scale.)

--Use a can of reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup in green bean casserole. (Branom suggests caramelizing your own onions instead of using the french fried onions that are loaded with saturated fat.)

--Use Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream.

--For desserts that call for evaporated milk, use skim evaporated milk instead.

Pay attention to labels

"There's a huge difference in the brands, so it's important to remember to look at the labels," Branom said.

Checking for added carbohydrates, added sugar and added fat is the easiest way to determine how healthy ingredients are. She also suggests looking for foods with higher fiber.

Slow down

"Another key piece is to slow down and savor a meal," Branom said. "People can have it if they want it, but people need to listen to their body when they're feeling full. We have 24-hour access to food in our country, and we can pay better attention to when are we satisfied and when are we hungry."

Branom suggests that people engage in more conversation during meal time and eat a slower pace, allowing their bodies enough time to recognize their fullness and avoid overindulgence.

"I know that takes the fun out of seconds, but it's healthier for them," Branom said. "But just think, if you're overindulging and going back for seconds and thirds, you're really not leaving space for dessert. ... Eat it because you're hungry and you like it, not because it's in front of you."

She also noted that drinking non-caloric beverages -- like water or unsweetened ice tea -- before and during meals will also help people feel full faster.

Don't skip meals

"When they know a big meal is coming, a lot of people will tend to skip meals," Branom said. "That's just making them more hungry, so they're so famished that they tend to overeat."

It's important for people to eat lightly before big holiday meals or parties. Having a small, healthy snack with protein -- like yogurt, fruit or a protein smoothie -- will satisfy hunger and keep metabolism rates steady.

Stay active

It's an obvious tip many people tend to avoid as the weather becomes cooler, but it's a simple way to maintain a healthier life.

"If you're more active, you can afford to have a few more calories without it catching up to you," said Branom, who recommends engaging in activity before and after meals to burn extra calories and keep blood sugar levels from rising due to high-carbohydrate meals.

"You can even turn it into a family activity; go for a walk or do the Turkey Trot on the morning of Thanksgiving," she said.

The plate method

Looking at the plate as a pie chart can give individuals a better understanding of food portions. Simply, a quarter of your plate should consist of starches and grains, another quarter of protein and half should be made up of produce (fruits and vegetables will keep people full longer with very little calories).

"In the case of Thanksgiving, people typically have vegetables like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn -- a lot of starchy carbohydrates," Branom said. "I suggest people add more vegetable options and add some colorful vegetables to the mix. Maybe instead of everything being mashed with fat added to it, they can try healthier vegetable alternatives."

To see and use the plate method, go to, a calorie tracker that is specific to a person's age, weight and height.

©2012 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

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