ISU Meridian Health Science Center

Holiday healthy-eating tips from ISU registered dietitians

Nov. 15, 2011

I thought it would be fun to poll my colleagues and gather some advice,” said Linda Rankin, assistant dean of the Idaho State University Division of Health Sciences and a registered dietitian. “We wish the community a happy and healthful holiday season, and have some tips to share.”

Rankin’s tips are:
1) Substitute evaporated skim milk for evaporated whole milk in pumpkin pie. This will save 200 calories and 28 grams of fat, and the taste is the same.
2) Use some whole-grain bread instead of white bread in stuffing. This increases the dressing’s fiber and nutrient content.
3) Cook a turkey inside a cooking bag, which keeps the turkey moist without any basting. It also saves up on cleaning. Check out the Reynolds’ website for more specifics on cooking with oven bags at http://www.reynoldsovenbags.com.

Rankin solicited some tips from Laura Vailas, ISU’s first lady, who is a registered dietitian. “During the holidays, we are offered many ‘special occasion’ foods and beverages – delicious, tempting delicacies typically reserved for celebrations,” Vailas said. “These are usually high-fat or high-sugar foods that can add a colossal number of calories to our intake. So, here are three tips on how I handle a busy social time without facing the New Year with regret.” 

Vailas’s tips are:
1) When at parties, I focus on enjoying people first, and the food and drink second. Parties are all about visiting and sharing conversation, and are a time where we get together with friends we don’t see often enough. So, I focus on catching up with old friends and making new ones, and time flies by without my having eaten more than I should.
2) At buffets, I fill my plate with lower calorie foods and sample small amounts of the higher calorie items. That way, I don’t feel deprived, yet don’t go over my calorie budget.
3) I seldom, if ever, consume high-calorie holiday beverages like eggnog and cider.

Dietetics Assistant Professor Allisha Weeden offered these three tips:

1) Make your own cranberry sauce using ¾-cup of sugar instead of the full cup. Use orange juice to replace part of the water and reduce the granulated sugar even more.
2) Serve mashed sweet potatoes seasoned with herbs like sage rather than baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows.

3) Cut dessert into smaller pieces. Rather than cutting a pie into eight slices, cut it into 12 slices. That way, you still enjoy dessert, but get fewer calories.

Mary Dundas, professor emeritus, offered these three tips:

1) Never go to a party hungry.  Have a low-calorie snack before you go, which will blunt your appetite.
2) If going out to dinner, eat half of your serving and take the other half home, or share it with a friend.
3) Drink low-calorie beverages such as water or wine, or use a diet drink as a mixer.

Assistant Professor of dietetics Cynthia Blanton said, “I would recommend keeping one’s hand around a beverage during holiday parties. Sipping sparkling water or another low-calorie drink can replace constant nibbling, and it might prevent the host from asking why you are not consuming something.”

Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the ISU dietetics program Laura McKnight had these three tips:

1) When invited to a holiday party where you are to take a dish, take something healthy. Others will appreciate your efforts as well. Ideas would be a vegetable tray with a low-fat dip, substitute plain yogurt and/or low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese for the sour cream or cream cheese.  Another idea is fruit kabobs. They are colorful and there are endless combinations of fruits to use.
2) Instead of making holiday treats such as cookies, candy or cakes for friends and neighbors, give them a homemade healthy food item. Examples might be homemade canned fruit or salsa, homemade whole wheat bread and jam, or dried soup ingredients in a jar. This provides healthier choices and still offers the homemade touch.
3) If alcohol is in your party plans, remember those calories add up quickly. Watch fat-laden drinks like eggnog or hot buttered rum.

For more information, contact Linda Rankin, Assistant Dean, Division of Health Sciences, 208-282-4029 or ranklind@isu.edu.

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About Idaho State University
Idaho State University, a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution founded in 1901, is Idaho’s lead institution in health professions and medical education.

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