Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Myth: It’s hard to offer healthy choices at Thanksgiving when my family just wants the favorites, some of which aren't healthy at all.

Answer: You’re right, but let’s bust the myth that comfort foods can't be made healthier!

Thanksgiving feast
Lighter and healthier holiday meals don’t have to mean no flavor or enjoyment. Yes, Virginia, you CAN prepare comfort foods so that they taste good but have less calories and fat. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Add low calorie but high fiber to your stuffing. Why high fiber? It fills you up. Veggies like carrots, celery and mushrooms fill you up without a lot of calories. You can also get some tasty sweetness with not a lot of calories by adding apples and butternut squash to your stuffing.

  • Sweet potatoes with marshmallows and maple syrup – the ultimate comfort food! Another way to prepare sweet potatoes that still provides that sweet taste is to cube the potatoes, spray with vegetable cooking spray and sprinkle with brown sugar and black pepper (or other spices like cinnamon). Roast at 350-400 degrees until lightly browned. I enjoy this treat throughout the winter even if it’s not a holiday. Makes a healthy and filling snack when I want a ‘sweet treat.’

  • Is pumpkin pie your holiday tradition? Consider making it without a crust. You cut calories and fat by preparing it this way but you still get the goodness of the pumpkin pie.

  • Mashed potatoes a family favorite? Some recipes suggest pureeing cooked cauliflower and adding garlic and chicken broth for flavoring. Not that adventurous? Try making half mashed potatoes and half pureed cauliflower.

And if you really can’t give up any of your holiday comfort foods, then remember to get back to healthy eating and being active the day AFTER Thanksgiving! Happy holiday!

For more ways to make your holiday recipes healthier (but still delicious), see the Makeover Your Holiday Meals with MyPlate! series on the USDA blog or on the MyPlate Facebook page. You’ll find recipes and other tips in this 8-week series.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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