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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the foods that will be served at one of your holiday dinners? For me, it’s my mother’s recipe for turkey stuffing. Although it contains a loaf of white bread and a pound of pork sausage and is loaded with calories, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without it! If you feel the same way about the special dishes that are part of your holiday meals, but are concerned about year-end weight gain, help is on the way!
I’m tackling ways to help curb holiday weight gain in a two part series. Here in Part One I’m focusing on how to tweak some favorite holiday recipes to make them lower in calories and/or added sugar without losing their great taste. In December you can look for Part Two, which deals with portion sizes and how to get what you want without taking more than you need. And if you need a little refresher on the topic before then you can read my previous blog about Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain.
Keeping the Traditions without All the Calories
Many of the ingredients now available to prepare our favorite holiday recipes are more convenient than the ones our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used. Preparing a boxed cake mix instead of measuring and mixing all of the ingredients in a cake recipe is just one example. We also have modern appliances that make meal preparation easier and more predictable. I’ll take my electric mixer over a hand whisk to beat egg whites any day. I don’t know anyone who wants to give up the improved safety, quality or convenience these changes offer us when cooking, especially during the holidays.
Some of the ingredients available today also allow us to enhance the nutritional value of a recipe without sacrificing taste or appearance. I’m sure my great-grandmother would have been happy to use enriched flour in her holiday stollen so it would contain more iron and important B vitamins along with all the dried fruits and nuts. She also might have replaced the sugar in her cookies, pies and cakes with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated had been available in her day. It measures cup for cup when used in place of sugar for cooking, baking and beverages and significantly reduces the calories and carbohydrate that sugar adds. You can try in recipes such as No-Sugar Sugar Cookies, Irresistible Lemon Chiffon Pie and Ricotta Cheesecake Torte. I’m sure you’ll agree, the only thing missing is some of the added sugar and calories that go with it!
As you prepare your holiday menus and food shopping lists, here are some other ways to tweak your favorite recipes to cut calories you’re never going to miss – and help curb holiday weight gain. (Please note that the calorie savings can vary depending on the brand of product you select.)
- Use fat-free evaporated milk instead of regular evaporated milk in pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and creamed soups – save about 120 calories per cup
- Replace full fat cream cheese with reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) in cheesecake, spreads and frostings – save about 200 calories per 8 ounces
- Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in dips, sauces and cakes – save about 260 calories per cup full fat Greek yogurt in place of full fat sour cream and 150 calories per cup fat-free Greek yogurt in place of reduced fat sour cream
- Make your own Mix Ahead Hot Cocoa with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated instead of buying instant cocoa packets – save 50 calories per 6 fluid ounces prepared
- Choose a single crust pie versus a double crust pie (such as pumpkin pie instead of apple pie) and save at least 100 calories per serving without the top crust (not counting other potential calorie savings in the filling)
- Replace half the oil in quick breads with unsweetened applesauce – save about 900 calories per ½ cup of oil you replace
- Top warm fruit crisp with whipped cream instead of ice cream - save about 35 calories per ¼ cup “dollop”
- Spray cooked vegetables with a mist of olive oil instead of adding melted butter – save about 90 calories for each tablespoon of butter replaced with a spritz of olive oil
- Skim fat from stock before making soup or gravy – remove 115 calories per tablespoon of fat
- Prepare party punches with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated instead of sugar – save 677 calories per cup of sugar replaced with SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener. That saves almost 20 calories per serving.
While these are not the only changes that may be needed to avoid holiday weight gain, they are a good start that will benefit everyone around your table. And just as I’ve tweaked my mother’s stuffing recipe to replace the pound of pork sausage with half a pound of lower fat poultry sausage and half a pound of diced mushrooms, you will find ways to reduce the excess calories and added sugar in your holiday meals that no one is going to miss, thanks in part to SPLENDA® Sweeteners. The gathering of family and friends is what matters most during these special celebrations, and it’s nice to know we can continue to pass on traditions from one generation to the next even if the recipes change over time.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.
For more SPLENDA® cooking and baking tips, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.