Healthy Holiday Feasting

During traditional holidays, when people get together and express gratitude for family and friends, traditional foods like turkey and dressing, green bean casseroles, sweet potato casseroles and pies of all sorts are unavoidable. However, the traditional dishes often bring up the dilemma of serving excess calories to everyone.  Here are some tips from the Department of Culinary Arts, Dietetics and Hospitality.

Slash Calories

In your traditional dishes, you may consider the following to substitute calorie-heavy ingredients:

Instead of … Green bean casserole with canned soup and fried onions
Serve … Green beans with almonds

Instead of … Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and butter
Serve … Baked sweet potato mashed with plain fat-free yogurt, light butter and a dash of cinnamon and sugar as toppings

Instead of … Sweet potato/pumpkin pie
Serve … Pear, apple and cranberry crumble

Instead of … Cornbread dressing with butter
Serve … Oatmeal bread dressing with turkey and fresh herbs

Veggie Your Plate Up

Fill your plate with healthy side dishes like salad and steamed vegetables before heading to the entrees. Liven up your salads by adding a variety of fruit, such as strawberries, apples and tangerines, with a hint of tasty vinaigrette dressing. Go for desserts that are decorated with fruit or enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit in lieu of pie.

Be Mindful, Not Mindless

As portion sizes continue to grow in our society, our consciousness of satiety is no longer the same. We tend to eat more and more mindlessly during and in-between meals. Try to avoid mindless snacking, like bowls of nuts, chips or sweets. During meals, focus on the size of your dishware, which has a big impact on how much you eat. Serve food on smaller plates, drinks out of tall thin glasses and serve desserts out of coffee cups instead of large bowls. This can significantly minimize your portion sizes and control overeating, especially when holiday meals tend to be buffet style and encourage multiple helpings.


Baked Sweet Potato Mash

See Dietetics Professor Amy Wan make this recipe on WFAA Channel 8 ABC: Lean Thanksgiving Recipes.

Recipe by Recipe by Kristen Robinson, RD, LD


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium russet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ cup plain fat-free yogurt, optional
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika


  1. Place potatoes and garlic in pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook over medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  2. Drain potatoes and garlic. Pour into a large bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an oven-safe baking dish.
  4. Using a fork, mash potatoes and garlic to desired consistency. Add yogurt, butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  5. Scoop potato mixture into baking dish. Smooth mixture and sprinkle with smoky paprika.
  6. Bake uncovered in oven for 25 to 30 minutes until edges begin to lightly brown.

Cooking Notes

  • If you do not have smoky paprika, get some! It adds an indescribable smoky undertone to any dish. However, regular paprika will do just fine in the recipe.
  • Make this recipe vegan-friendly by simply omitting yogurt and butter or using plant-based varieties.

Oatmeal Bread Dressing with Bacon and Fresh Herbs

Recipe by Sara Haas, RDN, LDN


  • 1 pound oatmeal bread cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 slices turkey bacon or lean pork bacon, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, washed and chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, washed, peeled and finely chopped or sliced
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, etc.) cleaned and chopped
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, washed, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, washed
  • 2 – 2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the cubed bread out onto a large, rimmed cookie sheet and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Increase oven temperature to 350°F.
  2. Add the bacon to a non-stick sauté pan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the sauté pan, and once melted, add the onion, celery and carrot. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the same mixing bowl with the bacon. Add the mushrooms to the sauté pan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5-6 minutes, then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Toss the cooled bread crumbs into the mixing bowl along with the eggs, sage and thyme. Mix lightly until incorporated. Pour 2 cups of the warmed chicken broth over the bread mixture, stirring gently. Let mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes, until broth has been fully absorbed. Spread the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish that has been coated with non-stick spray. Add additional broth if bread looks dry. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until top is lightly brown, about 20 minutes.
  4. Let dressing rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Mixed Baby Greens with Pears and Glazed Pecans

Serves 8


Glazed Pecans:

  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pecan halves

Greens and Pears:

  • 4 – 6 oz. mixed baby greens
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach or arugula
  • ½ medium head radicchio, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise if slender, quartered thick
  • 2 medium Bosc pears, cut into quarters lengthwise, cored and diced 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Heat agave nectar in small skillet, sprinkle with cinnamon and salt. When agave nectar becomes bubbly stir in pecans. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until pecans are nicely glazed, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. In a serving bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and toss together. Just before serving, add pecans and toss again.

Nutrient Analysis per Serving

  • Calories: 206
  • Total fat: 13 g
  • Sat fat: 1 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 43 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 23 g
  • Dietary fiber: 4 g
  • Sugars: 14 g
  • Protein: 3 g

Pear, Apple, and Cranberry Crumble

Serves 8

(This is not gluten free.)


Fruit Mixture:

  • 3 medium Bosc pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the fruit mixture ingredients in a bowl. Spray a 9-inch X 13-inch pan with cooking spray, and pour fruit mixture into the pan.
  2. Combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over the fruit mixture. Bake for 40 minutes or until the fruit is soft.

Nutrient Analysis per Serving

  • Calories: 226
  • Total fat: 4 g
  • Sat fat: 0 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 4 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 47 g
  • Dietary fiber: 6 g
  • Sugars: 32 g
  • Protein: 4 g