A Pumpkin Frenzy


Tradition is strong in our household during the holidays.  It rang true this last weekend when my daughter took our Halloween pumpkins (plural for cooking frenzy), cooked them down, and baked for three days straight making various desserts.  We still have pumpkin mix left after one pumpkin spice cake, three  pumpkin pies, two pumpkin breads, and loads of pumpkin cookies.  I heard the rest becomes pumpkin butter.  OK, so can tradition survive when healthy eating and waistlines come into play?  The answer is a resounding YES.

There are simple tips you can follow that can make your holiday foods healthier.

  • Cranberries – Choose whole cranberries over jellied cranberry sauce and juice.  Make a fresh, orange cranberry relish and get added benefit from the vitamin C in oranges.  Dried cranberries are a great snack or can be added to salads.
  • Pecans – Either raw or roasted, pecans make a great snack in moderation.  Be aware that a small handful contains about 200 calories.
  • Pumpkins – Eat only the pumpkin portion of the pie and leave the crust to enjoy the pumpkin dessert without extra fat and calories.  Make a lower-fat pumpkin pie by using an egg substitute and evaporated skim milk.  Pureed pumpkin lends itself to healthy cooking by replacing the fat in baked goods.
  • Turkey – Choose a fresh turkey that has not been injected with a sodium-based solution that increases the salt content.  Natural turkeys contain no artificial flavors, food coloring, chemical preservatives, or other artificial ingredients.  Check the ingredient statement.
  • Whole-Grain Stuffing – Rather than cooking stuffing inside of the turkey, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish in the oven.  If you add the drippings from the turkey, be sure to skim the fat off the top of the drippings before using.  This can be done easily by letting the drippings cool in the refrigerator or freezer.  You can also add ice cubes, which the fat will stick to for easy remove.  Rather than adding meat of giblets, replace half or all the meat with dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, or apricots.
  • Yams/Sweet Potatoes – Candied yams can be high in sugar and fat.  Bake with a bit of brown sugar and whip with orange juice rather than butter.  Try a baked sweet potato or yam and eat the skin for the most nutritional benefits.

Strategies to manage your intake and waistline during this tempting season are also vital.

  • Don’t serve family meals family-style.  Keep pots and dishes away from the table to help avoid seconds.
  • Eat more of the salads and green veggies at a dinner party and make the meat a side dish.
  • Ask for sparkling water and lime instead of beer and wine.  Remember that alcohol has empty calories and lots of them!
  • Physical activity is a good way to burn calories. Shopping at the mall is great exercise.  Park away from the entrance and walk with stomach muscles tight throughout your shopping spree.

In our household, we will continue enjoying the holiday cooking.  Nothing says we have to eat all the goodies that presently sit in the refrigerator but have many holiday activities to attend where we can share our treats with others.  It’s time to have fun. Have a wonderful Holiday Season!!

Signature  Joanne Slyter, dietitian, Westminster, CO


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