Healthy Holiday Eating Habits
With the Holiday season upon us, the eating season has officially begun as well. Everywhere you look are your favorite sweets and fatty foods just tempting you to ruin all the hard work you put in through the year. But does the Holiday eating really have to destroy all that hard work? Of course not! Almost every food you enjoy can be made in a low-fat version and save you a few calories. Check out 3 of my favorite classic Holiday treats in a low-fat, healthier version!
Christmas Sugar Cookies
This healthy sugar cut-out cookie recipe uses white whole-wheat flour, honey and lemon zest to make a delicious cookie perfect for decorating. Pull out all your favorite cookie cutters and get ready to decorate these adorable cookies with natural decorating sugar and icing.
Natural Decorating Sugars
- ½ cup clear crystal sugar, white sparkling sugar or sanding sugar (see Tips), divided
- “Holiday” red natural liquid dye (see Tips)
- Green natural liquid dye (see Tips)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- ⅔ cup white whole-wheat flour (see Tips)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup canola oil or corn oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract
Prep: 2 Hours 15 Minutes | Ready In: 2 Hours 45 Minutes
- To prepare decorating sugars: Divide decorating sugar between two small bowls. Add a few drops of red dye to one and green dye to the other and stir until evenly blended. Adjust color with more dye as desired.
- Spread each colored sugar in a thin layer on a separate small parchment-lined baking sheet. Turn on the oven to 350°F for 2 minutes, then immediately turn it off. (The warm oven dries the sugar, but too much heat will burn it.) Let the sugars stand in the oven for 1½ hours. (The sugars may be stored airtight at room temperature for up to 1 year.)
- To prepare cookie dough: Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat oil, butter, granulated sugar, egg and lemon zest in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Beat in honey, vanilla and almond (or lemon) extract until evenly incorporated.
- With the mixer on low speed, then medium speed, beat about half the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until incorporated. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.
- Divide the dough into thirds. Place one third on a 12-inch-long sheet of parchment paper and shape into a disk. Top with a second sheet of parchment. Roll the dough out between the parchment into an 8-inch circle about ¼ inch thick. Place the dough in the paper on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Freeze on the baking sheet until cold and firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Place another baking sheet in the freezer to chill too (it will be used under the dough as the cookies are cut out).
- To shape cookies: Position a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
- Working with one portion of dough at a time, remove from the freezer and place on the chilled baking sheet. Remove the top sheet of parchment and cut out cookies with 2½- to 3-inch cookie cutters. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet with a wide, thin spatula, spacing about 1½ inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. (If the dough gets too soft, freeze until firm again. As you cut out cookies, set aside the scraps. Shape all the scraps back into a disk and reroll between parchment. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before cutting out.)
- To decorate & bake cookies: Sprinkle cookies with red and green sugars and gently pat to help them adhere. Bake the cookies on the center rack, one pan at a time, until browned on the bottom, 6 to 12 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.
- Refrigerate colored sugar airtight for up to 1 year. Cover and refrigerate the cookie dough for up to 1 day. Freeze the rolled-out dough airtight for up to 3 months. Store baked cookies airtight in a single layer for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 mon
- Equipment: 2½- to 3-inch cookie cutters
- Find clear (or white) sanding sugar (aka sparkling or coarse sugar) in well-stocked baking stores, gourmet food shops or online at kingarthurflour.com.
- Find red, green and other natural liquid dyes plus a rainbow of already-dyed decorating sugars at chocolatecraftkits.com.
- White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour. It is available at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores and online at bobsredmill.com or kingarthurflour.com. Store it in the freezer.
Loaded Bread Stuffing
This bread stuffing has more than your basic celery and onion—you'll love the unexpected addition of mushrooms, red pepper, carrots and water chestnuts! And while it's the perfect addition to your holiday menu, it's also a great choice for serving with chicken or fish any night of the week.
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper (1 small)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried sage, crushed
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 12 cups light whole-wheat bread cut into 1-inch pieces and dried (see Tip)
- 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 1 cup coarsely shredded carrots (2 medium)
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Prep: 25 Minutes | Ready In: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in sage, ground pepper and, if desired, crushed red pepper.
- Combine bread cubes, water chestnuts and carrots in a very large bowl. Add mushroom mixture; toss to combine. Add broth and egg, tossing lightly to combine. Spoon into a 3-quart casserole.
- Bake, covered with foil, 50 to 55 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 160°F.
- To make dried bread cubes, preheat oven to 300°F. Spread bread cubes in a shallow roasting pan. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until cubes are dry, stirring twice; cool. Cubes will continue to dry and crisp as they cool. (Or let bread cubes stand, loosely covered, at room temperature 8 to 12 hours.)
This classic Holiday drink made with nonfat milk makes a great healthier alternative to the usual fatty mixture. A great way to cut calories this Holiday season!
- 2 cups nonfat milk
- 2 large strips orange and/ or lemon zest
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstrach
- White rum or bourbon (optional)
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Prep: 20 Minutes | Ready In: 20 Minutes
- Combine 1 ½ cups milk and the citrus zest in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; add the seeds and pod to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl until light yellow.
- Gradually pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour back into the pan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion until the eggnog begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the remaining ½ cup milk to stop the cooking. Transfer the eggnog to a large bowl and place over a larger bowl of ice to cool, then chill until ready to serve.
- Remove the zest and vanilla pod. Spike the eggnog with liquor, if desired, and garnish with nutmeg.
Where It Really Counts
Choosing healthy recipes for your favorite Holiday delights is a great start to eating healthier through the season but an even better way is just watching what you eat. Instead of eating your normal diet, substitute things you would normally have for a meal or snack for other treats you would like. Many people make the mistake of continuing their normal diet on top of eating their Holiday snacks doubling their calorie intake.
Another mistake people often make is not eating all day just to “save” your daily calories for that big party or event later in the evening. This is not a good practice because most people will end up over indulging once they do go to eat taking in more calories than usual.
Hopefully some of these recipes and tips are helpful to you and during your Holiday season so come New Year we are still at the top of our game! Cheers.