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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Lighten Up Those Holiday Meals!

Posted by Jenna Smith - Holidays

The holidays are coming! I'm amazed at how the holidays seem to sneak up on me every year. Many Americans , including myself, will be preparing the big Thanksgiving feast in just two weeks from today. Everyone wants to know what's going to be on the menu (even though it's the same traditional meals served every year!) Turkey, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, and of course, Great Aunt Betty's dish that keeps everyone guessing at what exactly it's supposed to be.

However, so many of these traditional dishes are high in calories, fat and carbohydrates. The sweet potato casserole may be loaded with sugar and heavy cream. And not to pick on the green bean casserole, but it also wouldn't make the list of "healthy" side dishes. But good news! There are ways we can lighten up the traditional favorites so that they are healthier and still tasty.

Try using substitutions. Instead of full fat sour cream or mayonnaise, try non-fat plain yogurt or the low-fat or fat-free versions of sour cream and mayonnaise. You may try substituting an artificial sweetener for sugar or just use less sugar all together. Sugar can be reduced by 1/3 in most recipes. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 2/3 cup. Try fat-free half-in-half as a substitution for heavy cream. Applesauce or fruit purees may work well as a substitute for vegetable oil in baking. There are so many possibilities!

Whether you lighten up your holiday dishes or not, just try not to over-indulge. Don't be swayed to put on the sweatpants and gouge in all the great food. It may be tempting, but the discomfort afterward is not worth it! Eat a healthy breakfast with whole grains, fruit, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Then, enjoy the meal and the great company that comes with it.

Try this healthy version of sweet potato casserole!

Sweet Potato Casserole

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked (about 1 ½ pounds)

¾ cup Splenda® or sugar substitute equal to ¾ cup sugar

½ to 1 cup reduced fat sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Mash sweet potatoes with potato masher or beat with electric mixer until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients, except pecans. Spoon sweet potato mixture into ungreased 1 quart casserole or soufflé dish; sprinkle with pecans. Bake uncovered at 350°F until heated throughout, about 30 minutes.

(Yield: 6 servings)

Nutrient analysis per serving: 191 calories, 3 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fat, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 20 milligrams sodium.

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