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Ways to Make Your Holidays a Little Healthier

Why not plan our holiday meals to be a little healthier? The following information will tell you how this can be done.

Nashville, Ark. – On average, a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner can contain more than 2,000 calories. For most people this amount of calories is over the maximum amount of calories that should be consumed in one day. In fact, cutting calories by as little as 500 calories in one week can help you lose a pound. No wonder the average person gains about 10 pounds during the holiday season. While the holidays only come around once a year, most of us probably won’t lose those extra pounds, we just add to the ones we already have. Why not plan our holiday meals to be a little healthier?

            When we are trying to plan our menu, many times we focus on what traditional foods we will serve, and how we will fix these foods. If you have a family member or guest who requires a special diet, you may be panicking, thinking that you can not prepare your traditional foods. There are still many nutritional goodies in our traditional dinner that we should not overlook, and can be prepared for all our guests. Here is a list of the top holiday foods to include in your menu.

            Pumpkins – Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron. Pumpkin is quite low in calories and is a healthy holiday food. Pumpkin pie, however, becomes a high-calorie food because it’s made with eggs, sugar, evaporated milk and baked in a high-fat pie crust.

            Cranberries – Cranberries are packed with Vitamin C and also provide a fair amount of dietary fiber and manganese. Cranberries also contain a type of antioxidant that can prevent the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract sometimes causing urinary tract infection.

            Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are a rich source of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and beta-carotene. Similar to the banana, it is also an excellent source of potassium. If you eat the skin, you will also reap the health benefits of fiber, making the sweet potato a healthy holiday food.

            Green Beans – Green beans are probably one of the healthiest holiday foods out there. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. They also contain a good amount of vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron. Green bean casserole is a traditional holiday dish that is high in calories due to the cream of mushroom soup, fried onions and milk. If you must have green bean casserole for your holiday meal, make it using fat-free cream of mushroom soup. No one will know unless you tell them.

            TurkeyIn addition to being an excellent source of protein, turkey offers the least amount of fat per serving, among all other meats, if you pass on the skin. It is low in fat and is an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. A serving of turkey is a 2 to 3-ounce cooked portion, which is equivalent to a new deck of playing cards.

            It is possible to fix your favorite holiday foods and still enjoy them. Look at how they are prepared and decide if any lower fat or lower calorie changes can be made. If you would like a copy of a handout on how to make your Thanksgiving meal for 8 healthier, complete with all your favorites, contact me at the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. Happy Thanksgiving!

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a healthier version of a traditional favorite, Pumpkin Pie. You will save about 100 calories per serving over the traditional version. The Apple Salad recipe is delicious and can be made healthier by substituting lower fat versions of the peanut butter, dairy cream, and mayonnaise. Use a sugar substitute and only use about 1/2 the nuts called for in the recipe.

Best Light Pumpkin Pie

16 pieces of ginger snap cookies

1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin

½ cup egg whites

1/3 cup sugar or sugar substitute

1 ½ cup evaporated skim milk

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

            Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind ginger snaps in food processor or crush fine. Lightly spray a glass pie pan with cooking spray. Pat cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan evenly.

            Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and pour into the crust. Bake until knife comes out clean from center, about 45 minutes. Refrigerate and slice in 8 wedges.

Apple Salad

8 apples, diced but not peeled

Juice from ½ lemon (optional)

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup raisins

2 cups walnuts


¼ cup peanut butter

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup sugar

½ cup mayonnaise

            Mix salad ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Spoon over salad and toss to evenly distribute dressing.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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