Nutrition – November-December 2012


Holidays done “Rite”

Managing holiday temptations

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends, which usually means enjoying home-cooked meals and delicious sweet treats. But along with that holiday cheer can come a few unwanted extra pounds. Although the average holiday weight gain is 1 to 5 pounds, which may not seem like a lot, it can add up over the years. But instead of depriving yourself of your favorite holiday sweets, try a few recipe substitutions and healthy eating strategies that can help you enjoy holiday dishes without all of the guilt.

For healthy holiday eating strategies: Prepare, Be aware and Share:


  • Plan a smaller breakfast and lunch to allow for a few extra indulgences at the holiday party. Don’t skip these meals altogether, just plan for less.
  • Bring a healthy dish to the party so you know you’ll have something to fall back on.

Be aware

  • Don’t pick – grab a plate and sit down to enjoy your meal. It’s easy to overeat when you are grazing at the buffet line. Practice portion control – sample small amounts of your favorite foods and try not to eat until you are overstuffed.
  • Fill up on good-for-you foods first like cut fruit, crudités and shrimp cocktail.
  • Focus on friends, not the food. Enjoy fun times with friends and try not to stand near or focus too much on the buffet.


  • There may be lots of delicious desserts at the party, but choose your favorite one to enjoy instead of picking at all of them.
  • Or, simply share a portion of dessert with a friend to cut down on calories.
  • Prepare a healthier dessert idea and bring it to the party.
  • If you plan on making a dish for your next holiday party, try the recipe modifications below.

Instead of this Try this
Whole milk Evaporated fat-free (skim) milk, fat-free half-and-half.
Whipped Cream Whip chilled evaporated skim milk or use low-fat whipped topping.
Sour Cream Low fat or fat-free sour cream, low-fat or fat free Greek yogurt.
Mayonnaise Low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise, fat-free plain yogurt
Cream Cheese Reduced fat or fat-free versions (do not use fat-free for baking).
Ricotta Cheese 1% cottage cheese, part-skim or non-fat ricotta
Butter or Shortening Light soft-tub margarine or use a combination of ½ butter and ½ unsweetened applesauce.  Shortening:  regular soft tub margarine.
Stick margarine Reduced-fat soft tub, squeeze or whipped margarine (whipped margarine or reduced-fat and fat-free margarine cannot be used in baking or frying).
Oil (in baking) Equal amount of applesauce or double the amount of plain yogurt.
Sugar Reduce sugar by ¼ and increase cinnamon, nutmeg and/or vanilla. Use sugar substitutes according to package directions.

Here’s how to lighten a few holiday favorites

Mashed potatoes
Use Yukon gold potatoes, which have a light yellow color, dense and creamy texture and rich buttery flavor, and use evaporated skim milk instead of whole milk or cream. Reduce or eliminate butter, or substitute trans-fat free margarine. For a twist on the traditional, make garlic mashed potatoes. Cook chopped fresh garlic in a small amount of skim milk and add it to mashed potatoes.

Sweet potato casserole
Sweet potatoes are a nutrient powerhouse. However, the traditional sweet potato casserole is typically loaded with butter and brown sugar. For most recipes, you can easily cut the butter and sugar in half without impacting flavor, thanks to the sweet potato’s natural sweetness. If the recipe calls for eggs, use a fat-free egg substitute instead. You can also add naturally sweet ingredients such as raisins or currants and seasonings such as cinnamon and vanilla extract. Skip the streusel that often tops this casserole, and instead try a simple sprinkling of chopped nuts. 

Green bean casserole
A casserole of canned or frozen green beans, cream of mushroom soup and milk or sour cream topped with French-fried onions is a long-standing staple on many holiday tables. This quick-and-easy casserole is simple to lighten up by using low-sodium and low-fat cream of mushroom soup, skim milk or fat-free plain yogurt instead of sour cream, and reduced fat cheese. To get the flavor and crunch of French-fried onion rings without the fat, spray an equal amount of chopped onions and fine dry plain bread crumbs with nonfat cooking spray. Bake at 350°F until golden brown (about 12 minutes). Use to top casserole.

Cooking dressing separate from the turkey is one of the easiest ways to reduce fat (because the fat drippings won’t soak into the dressing). Use reduced-sodium broth instead of drippings to moisten the dressing. Try using whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Double the amount of vegetables, and get creative with exotic ingredients such as shiitake mushrooms that add flavor without adding fat. Sauté vegetables in a non-stick pan with just a small amount of oil. Boost flavor by using low-sodium seasoning and fresh herbs instead of additional salt.

Bread or rolls
This one’s easy. Go for whole grains.  You can find a wide variety of whole grain rolls to choose from at the grocery store, either in the bakery or in the bread aisle. Serve them instead of white bread.

If substitution is just not an option with Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie, just serve smaller slices. Or, offer some healthier treats along with your richer recipes.  Serve angel food cake topped with fruit puree, apples drizzled with fat-free caramel sauce, or just offer a selection of assorted sliced fruit paired with a yogurt dipping sauce. 

Healthy holiday eating with diabetes
The holidays can present a special challenge when it comes to healthy eating – especially for people who are trying to prevent or control diabetes. The key to navigating any holiday gathering is being prepared for temptation, opting for healthier choices, controlling portion sizes and planning ahead so that your holiday favorites fit into your diabetes meal plan.

Healthy holiday eating tips

  • Eat a healthy snack before leaving home: This will help prevent overeating at the party.
  • Go to the party with a plan: Check out the buffet first and decide what and how much you will eat. The foods you select and the time you plan to eat should also be a part of your diabetes meal plan.
  • Watch portions: Once you know what to eat, keep your portions in check. Stick to your meal plan for how many servings of carbohydrates you can eat at each meal and snack.
  • Bring a dish: Contribute a healthy dish that fits into your meal plan.
  • Savor every bite: Eating slowly reduces your chances of eating too much.
  • Drink water: Water is a healthy, no-calorie beverage. Limit high-calorie, high-fat, sugary drinks like egg nog, soda and alcoholic beverages. If you need some flavor, try flavored seltzer.
  • Plan for exercise: Getting regular exercise can help you control your blood sugar levels. Factor in exercise during the holidays. If you can’t resist that slice of pumpkin pie, plan for a brisk walk after dinner.

Here are some common foods you might find at your next holiday gathering. We’ve shown the portion sizes which are equal to 1 serving of carbohydrate (about 15 grams):

  • In general, women can have around 45g carbohydrate (3 servings), and men can have around 60g (4 servings) per meal. However, individual needs vary so always check with a registered dietitian or your health care provider to learn how many servings of carbohydrate are right for you.

Apple cider, eggnog or other sweetened beverage (4 ounces)

Dinner roll or cornbread (1 small, the size of a bar of soap)

Cranberry sauce (1/4 cup, about the size of 1 large egg)

Baked (1 small, the size of a computer mouse)
Mashed (1/2 cup, the size of a light bulb)
Scalloped (1/2 cup)

Sweet potato/yam
Baked (1 small, the size of a computer mouse)
Casserole, with sugar and marshmallows (1/4 cup, about the size of 1 large egg)

Stuffing or rice (1/3 cup, the inside of a cupcake wrapper)

Starchy vegetables
Winter squash (1 cup, the size of a baseball)
Peas & corn (1/2 cup, the size of a light bulb)

Non-starchy veggies
Leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, peppers and mushrooms  prepared without sauce or sugar (1 ½ – 2cups, about two hands cupped)

Follow these simple steps for a healthy, happy, holiday season!

For more healthy eating tips and recipe ideas, visit us at or visit your in-store dietitian to help you put a plan in place. 

Sarada Bernstein MPH, RD is a Corporate Dietitian for ShopRite Supermarkets.



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