Tips to Make Your Holiday Favorites a little healthier

The holidays can be a tricky and tempting time for those trying to watch their diet. We want healthy options but who wants to miss out on their holiday favorites?! Sure, there's great healthy advice like, "don't eat pie or mashed potatoes," but where's the fun in that? So here are a couple easy and flavorful ways to modify your favorite recipes to improve the nutritional value of your holiday favorites without significantly changing the flavor or experience.

1. Use Cauliflower in your Mashed Potatoes

This is great for the carb-counters trying to limit some of the simple carbohydrates like those found in potatoes. Simply steam a head of cauliflower, puree in a food processor to your desired consistency (I like a little texture to mine), and mix in with your favorite mashed potato recipe in place of some of the potatoes.

The cauliflower replaces some of the carbohydrates from potatoes while adding more nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, B-vitamins, folate, choline, and antioxidants like sulforaphane. You can also replace some of the butter with olive oil for some added omega-3's and antioxidants like hydroxytyrosol. I've also heard turnips work well, but haven't tried them yet!

2. Add Kale, Spinach, and/or Other Veggies

Use a food processor to puree kale or spinach and add it to various dishes like stuffing, casseroles, gravy, and even baked goods without anybody really noticing. Even finely chopped, the greens just look like flecks of parsley or other herbs which are also great additions! Fresh greens like kale are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber making them a great addition to your holiday recipes. You can also experiment and try using things like grated carrots or zucchini.

3. Mash Veggies into the Gravy

Roasting a turkey or ham? Line the bottom of the pan with things like carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes, apples, lemons, garlic, and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. When the meat is done cooking, transfer all the juices and veggies into a pan, bring up to a simmer, then mash up the roasted veggies, fruits, and herbs. After it's reduced a bit, strain the mix and use the liquid as your gravy base. Then, follow your usual process for making a rich gravy - only now it's full of more flavor, vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber, and antioxidants.

The veggies on the bottom of the roasting pan will also help flavor the turkey and hold the turkey off the pan like a rack, allowing for better airflow around the turkey so it's not getting soggy sitting in the pan drippings.

4. Make Things from Scratch, Whenever Possible

Cooking Holiday PiesSure it can add to the cost and preparation time, but there are several things that can easily be made from scratch to improve the nutritional value. Subbing out fresh ingredients will boost the nutrient content and flavor, and limiting the use of canned or boxed ingredients can reduce salt and sugar content. For example:

  • Pie Fillings: Store bought pie fillings will likely contain far more sugar than what is actually needed. Plus, your guests will certainly appreciate the fresh fruit used in your apple and berry pies!
  • Green Bean Casserole: Use fresh or frozen green beans instead of canned, make your own cream of mushroom soup, use fresh mushrooms, and/or make your own fried onions/shallots by frying in a little olive or coconut oil.
  • Stuffing: Use whole wheat bread, add finely chopped or grated carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, kale (see #2 above). Try adding crushed walnuts or pecans for the added flavor, protein, omega-3's, and minerals.
  • Gravy:
  • See #3 for the start of your gravy base. If you use pre-made stock/broth from the store, go for the low-sodium versions and salt it to taste yourself. It's not too difficult to make a simple gravy that will blow away any store bought varieties.

5. Add Prebiotic Fiber

If you haven't heard already, Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber is flavorless, heat and acid stable, with no added sugars. This means it can easily be added to just about anything you can stir, including cooked recipes, to boost the fiber content and help promote healthy intestinal bacteria without altering the flavor or texture.1,2

The specific type of fiber used in Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber has been shown to help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose especially after a meal.3,4 Increasing fiber can also help you feel full faster, so maybe you stop before you get to "one plate too many."5

Try adding Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber to the following:

  • Hot cider / coffee
  • Salad dressings / veggie dips
  • Pie fillings
  • Cookie dough
  • Casseroles
  • Gravy
  • Soups
  • Mashed potatoes

When adding, consider how many people might be eating from the dish and add about 1/2 serving or less for each person. Keep in mind, some people may eat more than one serving of a dish, so it's better to use smaller amounts spread throughout several dishes instead of putting it all in one dish. For example, add one scoop to your pumpkin pie filling, two scoops in your gravy, two scoops in the mashed potatoes, two scoops in each batch of cookies, and/or a scoop or two in a pot of hot mulled cider.

BONUS - A Trick from my Grandmother:

Add zucchini to everything! Zucchini bread, zucchini cookies, even zucchini pie. No kidding, one year I thought I was eating apple pie and it turns out it was actually zucchini. Nice one, Grandma!

I hope you find some of these useful and try some out throughout the holiday season. We'd love to hear some of your favorite recipes and tips you have to help improve the health of your favorite meals!

    1. Goda T, Kajiya Y, Suruga K, Tagami H, Livesey G. Availability, fermentability, and energy value of resistant maltodextrin: modeling of short-term indirect calorimetric measurements in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(6):1321-1330
    2. Huebner J, Wehling RL, Parkhurst A, Hutkins RW. Effect of processing conditions on the prebiotic activity of commercial prebiotics. Int Dairy J. 2008;18(3):287-293.
    3. Gordon D. The effects of resistant maltodextrin on blood glucose, insulin, and triacylglyceride levels, and fat accumulation after meal feeding in humans. In: Dietary Fibre Components and Functions (Salovaara H, Gates F, Tenkanen M, eds.). Wageningen, Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Pub; 2007.
    4. Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(1):30–42.
    5. Ye Z, Arumugam V, Haugabrooks E, Williamson P, Hendrich S. Soluble dietary fiber (Fibersol-2) decreased hunger and increased satiety hormones in humans when ingested with a meal. Nutr Res. 2015:1–8.
  • Pinnaclife - Kyle Hilsabeck - PharmD

    Kyle Hilsabeck, PharmD., is the Vice President of Pharmaceutical Affairs at McCord Holdings and licensed by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy.  He completed bachelors degrees in biology and biochemistry at Wartburg College before earning his Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Upon graduation, he completed a community pharmacy practice residency through the University of Iowa where he focused primarily on nutritional aspects of care including the use of vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements.  He has taught courses for the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy on vitamins, minerals, herbs, and nutritional supplements and given many presentations on the subject as well.  He has a passion for improving patient care specifically with regards to the safety and quality of the nutritional supplements and health information people use.

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