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Holiday meal with healthy foods.

Make a few healthy recipe changes to your favorite holiday foods

December 22, 2015

From Loyola Medicine's Registered Dietitians

Many people give up on keeping their goals for healthy eating this time of year. They use the excuse that it’s impossible to eat healthy during the holidays. Loyola Medicine's registered dietitians know that this is not true. Whether you are focusing on eating less sodium, fat, sugar, calories, or all four, you can achieve your dietary goals. Here are a few ways to make your favorite dishes a little healthier. Let's start with dessert.


One easy tip is to reduce the amount of fat in recipes that call for light cream by using an equal amount of evaporated skim milk. If you are feeling bold, make your own healthier crust by making these simple changes:

  • Use olive or canola oil in place of butter to produce a cholesterol-free product.
  • Use whole-wheat flour instead of white to give you more fiber.
  • Use oats and crushed nuts in your crust in place of some of the flour to add additional fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Make a pie that has only a bottom crust, such as pumpkin pie, to reduce calories and fat.


  • Use fat-free (skim) milk in place of whole milk.
  • Choose fat-free sweetened condensed milk over heavy cream.

Turkey with Gravy

  • Turkey is a great source of protein, but the skin can be a dietary setback. Don't eat this higher fat, higher sodium part.
  • Gravy often contains too much fat and salt. To reduce salt, add unsalted turkey stock to the pan drippings
  • To lower the fat content of the pan drippings, use a fat separator or place the pan in the refrigerator/freezer for 30 minutes to harden the fat. Scrape away the fat and discard it.
  • Thicken the stock by combining cornstarch and skim milk rather than flour and the grease used typically.

Mashed Potatoes

Instead of whipping up mashed potatoes, make mashed cauliflower instead. This lower carbohydrate option will let you indulge without as many calories. Here is an easy way to make mashed cauliflower:

  • Steam cauliflower with garlic, and other seasonings you like, until completely tender.
  • Place cauliflower in a food processor to get to the consistency of mashed potatoes.
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of non-hydrogenated margarine.


  • Don't stuff the turkey with it. Make your stuffing (or dressing) separate from the turkey, which will save calories and fat.
  • Substitute whole wheat bread, cubed and toasted, in place of packaged white bread crumbs.
  • Sautee celery, onions and other vegetables in low-sodium chicken broth

Green Bean Casserole

  • Replace the fried onions onion slices you've sautéed yourself on the stovetop in a little olive oil.
  • Replace the canned soup with your own white sauce to reduce the sodium content. Mix together skim milk, flour and seasonings.

Cranberry Sauce

Use a bag of frozen cranberries with a ½ cup of low-sugar/low-calorie fruit juice, such as orange juice, in place of the sugar. Now you are equipped with a list of simple changes you can make, each of which can help you work toward your healthy-eating goals. Loyola Medicine dietitians serve patients with a variety of nutrition needs, including weight loss, cancer care, heart disease management and diabetes management.​