Every autumn after Halloween, costumes are put away and copious amounts of candy are consumed. We shift gears and start thinking about the upcoming holiday season. Whichever winter holidays you choose to celebrate, food is likely involved. Rather than provide recipes for fat-free, bland versions of popular holiday fare, this article aims to provide rich, savory and satisfying dishes* made in unique ways to add excitement to your festivities while keeping you on track with your fitness goals.
Nix Grains and Heavy Starches
Rich foods contain savory fats and succulent proteins. By substituting grains with similar tastes and textures, you can avoid a huge insulin spike to go along with your food indulgence. Sarah Fragoso, author of the national best-selling cookbook, Everyday Paleo and EverydayPaleo.com, gives this tip: “When making a healthier or grain-free version of your holiday favorites, simply consider using almond or coconut flours for typical grain-based dishes. There are hundreds of easy and delicious grain-free recipes that can be found online and in several cookbooks to inspire cooks to make holidays delicious and nutritious, without missing anything!”
Popular carbohydrate-rich dishes include mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and stuffing or dressing. A popular mashed potato substitute, called mashed faux-tatoes, uses pureed cauliflower as a potato substitute, in part or whole. Recipes can be found online. For your sweet potato dish, consider Sarah’s suggestion of substituting fruit for sweeteners (like applesauce in mashed sweet potatoes instead of brown sugar). Stuffing made with hearty vegetables, savory seasonings and crunchy nuts is a decadent alternative to bread-based versions.
Kick Up the Flavors
Lisa Lillien, author of the New York Times best-selling Hungry Girl brand and host of the Hungry Girl television series on Food Network and the Cooking Channel, makes delicious foods healthier by focusing on lower-calorie substitutes to classic favorites. Her methods include using plenty of herbs, flavorful ingredients, pre-made and homemade ingredients and eating smaller portions to control overall caloric intake. Some of Lisa’s holiday recipes include apple and onion stuffing, upside-down pumpkin pie, corn mega-muffins and simply sweet meatballs. For more tips and holiday recipes, visit HungryGirl.com.
Herbs that are great for holiday poultry include rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and sage. Red meats are complimented well by more potent spices like peppercorns and garlic, but also pair well with basil, marjoram, bay leaf and thyme. Nothing conjures up the holidays like the intoxicating aromas of cinnamon, clove, ginger and allspice.
What are the holidays without sweets? Satisfy your sweet tooth while saving calories and minimizing the negative effect of large amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sarah uses coconut and almond flours as substitutes for wheat flour, yams and squash for a sweet taste and moist texture, nuts for crunch and spices for flavor and that warm holiday sensation. Warm applesauce, maple syrup, agave nectar and honey are perfect holiday sweeteners.
Hungry Girl’s Corn Megamuffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup Splenda (granulated)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, cornmeal, Splenda, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside. In a separate medium bowl, mix together corn, egg substitute and yogurt. Whisk thoroughly. Add contents of the medium bowl to the large one and stir until completely mixed.
Line 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with baking liners and/or spray with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute batter among the 9 cups – cups will be VERY full (we don’t call ‘em MegaMuffins for nothin’!). Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool and then enjoy!
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups canned cream-style corn
¾ cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
¾ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
Makes 9 Servings
Per Serving (1⁄9th of recipe, 1 muffin): 158 calories, 0.5g fat, 358mg sodium, 32g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 9g sugars, 6g protein
Hungry Girl’s Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
2 zucchinis, stem ends removed, halved lengthwise
1 red onion, sliced into rounds, rings intact
½ eggplant, stem end removed, cut into ½ inch slices
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup crumbled reduced-fat/light feta cheese
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. chopped garlic
6 large red bell peppers (look for those that sit flat)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Place zucchini, onion and eggplant on sheets in an even layer. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Mix well. Evenly spread half of mixture over veggies on baking sheets. Flip veggies and spread with remaining mixture. Bake veggies until tender, 20 - 25 minutes. Set aside to cool, but leave oven on. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Cook quinoa according to package instructions. (Typically, by simmering with 1 cup water, covered, until water evaporates and quinoa is fully cooked.) Transfer quinoa to a large bowl.
Roughly chop baked veggies and add to the bowl. Add feta cheese, basil and garlic; stir thoroughly. Set aside.
Carefully slice off stem sides of bell peppers. Remove and discard seeds. Place peppers cut-side up in a deep 9x13 baking pan. Evenly distribute quinoa-veggie mixture among peppers, about 1 cup each. Bake until peppers are soft and filling is hot, 20 - 25 minutes. Enjoy!
Makes 6 Servings
Per Serving (1 stuffed pepper): 180 calories, 5g fat, 405mg sodium, 27g carbs, 7g fiber, 10g sugars, 9g protein
Everyday Paleo Stuffing
1 lb mild Italian pork or chicken sausage, casing removed (I used chicken sausages from my local butcher)
4 ½ cups mushrooms, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, diced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon diced fresh sage
Preheat oven to 350. In a large soup pot, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the sausage and brown. Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, chicken broth, cherries, almonds, sage, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the veggies begin to absorb the chicken broth. Transfer to a large glass baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
½ tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup dried cherries, finely chopped
½ cup slivered almonds
1 ½ teaspoons garlic, minced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Makes 12 Servings
Per Serving (½ cup): calories 224, 14.52g fat, 313mg sodium, 6.34g carbs, 1.26g fiber, 2.46g sugars, 8g protein
Everyday Paleo Holiday Sweet Potatoes
4 cups sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 cups apples, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons organic grass
1 cup chopped pecans
Pre-heat oven to 350. Cook the sweet potatoes in a pressure cooker for 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move the cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl.
To the potatoes, add the apples, butter, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup and mix well.
Spread the mixture evenly into an 11×7 baking dish. Top with the pecans and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Makes 12 Servings
Per Serving (½ cup): calories 157, 3.74g fat, 31mg sodium, 30g carbs, 4g fiber, 14.6g sugars, 1.68g protein
Everyday Paleo Pumpkin Pie
Ingredients for Crust:
½ cup hazelnuts
1 cup pecans
4 tablespoons melted organic grass-fed butter
Pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts in a food processor and process until the nuts are a flour-like or almond meal like consistency. Pour into a small mixing bowl, add the butter and salt and mix into a thick dough. Using your hands, spread evenly into a pie pan and bake for 10 minutes.
Ingredients for filling:
1 14oz can of organic pumpkin puree (nothing added, just pumpkin)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
½ cup raw organic honey
½ cup coconut milk
While the crust is in the oven, whisk all of the pie filling ingredients together. Pour into the crust that has been baked for 10 minutes, return to the oven and bake for and additional 45 minutes.
Makes 8 Servings
Per Serving (1 slice): calories 154, 8.23g fat, 116mg sodium, 20.78g carbs, 1g fiber, 17.9g sugars, .78g protein