The Skinny On Healthier Holiday Meals

The Skinny On Healthier Holiday Meals

Published March 14, 2008

Posted March 3, 2008 – It wouldn’t be Easter without Aunt Sylvia’s Cola-Glazed Ham. No graduation or church supper would be complete without Grandpa Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese.

But, if someone in your family has diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or other reasons to watch what they eat, a family celebration can be a minefield.  Some people might even avoid a celebration so they won’t feel tempted or left out of the fun. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you serve up family favorites at your get-togethers, take a fresh look at the recipes. Chances are you can pare down the fat, calories and salt without losing out on all that homemade goodness. Here are a few tried and true techniques to get you started:

Oven-bake instead of fry.  If you can fry it in a skillet you can oven-fry it with a lot less fat. To give your chicken, meatballs, fish or eggplant slices a golden-brown crust, preheat the baking sheet in the oven; when it’s hot, give it a light coating of vegetable oil or cooking spray, then arrange the food on the baking sheet in a single layer. When bottoms are browned, spray tops with cooking spray and turn to brown the other side.

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Steam instead of stew. Steam your vegetables or cook them in just a little boiling water until tender-crisp. That way you’ll help prevent all those healthy vitamins and minerals from being washed out in the cooking water.

Think herbs and spices instead of grease and gravy. Get creative with the herbs and spices in your pantry (replace any that are over a year old for best flavor).  Instead of making a gravy, use gravy seasonings to flavor the food itself: say, dip chicken pieces in some beaten egg white, then coat them with a  bread crumb mix that includes sage, garlic, thyme, onion powder and ground pepper. Or, add salt-free seasoning blend to your coleslaw, potato or macaroni salad so you can use less mayonnaise.

Poultry power.  Use lean smoked poultry whenever you’d reach for ham or pork: Use a smoked turkey leg instead of a ham hock or fatback to flavor your greens and stews; choose sausage and hot dogs made with low-fat chicken or turkey; layer sliced turkey breast in sandwiches.

Super-size vegetables and fruits.  Make it a habit to include vegetables or fruit at every meal: Layer your sandwiches with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and onions; top your pizza with veggies instead of pepperoni; double the amount of onions and celery in your potato or macaroni salad. Make a fruit salad and veggie platter a necessary part of every family buffet.  When serving up a cake, cut small slices and serve with lots of fresh berries.

Sneak in produce. Toss in finely chopped or pureed mild-flavored vegetables into your soups, stews, chilies, and casseroles (see “Five Feats of Vegetable Stealth” for ideas). You’ll barely notice them, and they’ll help keep calories down, vitamins, minerals and fiber up. Try shredded carrots, chopped greens, frozen vegetable blends, and store-bought coleslaw mix or broccoli slaw.

Use lean dairy.  The dairy case is full of lower-fat choices, so give them a try! Switch from whole milk to 1 percent (low-fat), and you’ll save about 25 calories and 5 grams of fat with every cup.  Don’t forget low-fat and fat-free yogurt and cottage cheese; plain fat-free yogurt makes a great substitute for sour cream in dips or uncooked dishes. Sprinkle a thin layer of shredded reduced-fat cheeses on your pizza and casseroles; for best melt, add them in the last few minutes of cooking time.

Shop around for recipes. Check out for more cooking tips and inspiration. Look into community education classes at your local high school or community college, or get a free copy of  “Heart- Healthy Home Cooking: African-American Style,” a collection of 20 recipes from the National Institutes of Health.


Written by BET-Staff


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