Crowd Pleasing Tips and Nutrition Twists for Holiday Meals

Everyone loves their holiday traditions, but this year why not kick up traditional recipes?

I was on WBAL in Baltimore and on Let’s Talk Live in D.C. recently sharing some secret ingredients and simple tricks that will turn your meal into a delicious and nutritious eye popping feast! It’s all about flavor and easy nutrition.

The shorter WBAL video is below. You can check on the longer Let’s Talk Live segment here too.

Here are some highlights from both videos:

Tip #1: Make recipes that use unexpected ingredients.

Brussels-Sprouts-Bacon-CARaisins-350x350The big secret to getting people to eat their veggies is to make them taste better. With brussel sprouts if you add bacon people will eat them – and just a little bit adds a ton of flavor. But the other more nutritious secret ingredient here is the California raisins. They add a delicious sweetness to the sprouts that makes them irresistible! Plus, they’re an all-natural, dried-by-the-sun fruit that you can feel good about eating. The ingredient list says it all: Raisins. They have zero fat, no cholesterol, no added sugar and are packed with fiber, potassium and iron. A quarter cup provides a serving of fruit, plus the US Dept of Agriculture ranks raisins as the most economical dried fruit. Check out for the brussel sprouts recipe I shared in the segments.

Tip #2: Use ingredients with intense flavors.

Gorgonzola-Crusted Beef Tenderloin CrostiniIntense flavors can add pizazz without a lot of extra calories. Gorgonzola Beef Tenderloin Crostini has a strong flavor from just a sprinkling of the cheese paired with the rich flavor of the meat. You don’t have to add a ton of fat either. I got this recipe from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter website. I love using this because it has 70% less saturated fat than butter, has no hydrogenated oil, no trans fat, and it’s delicious! It’s also portion controlled by being on the little mini slices of bread. This would be a great appetizer to bring to a holiday party.

Tip #3: Serve lighter, refreshing beverages.

I know eggnog is traditional… but it is also “heavy beverage” high in calories so why not try something new? You can even sneak in some good nutrition if you do it right. I made up a couple “Mocktails” using Vita Coco Coconut water. Vita Coco is all-natural and never made from concentrate so all of that nutrition is from the juice of young coconuts. It is a great way to replenish yourself without adding extra holiday season calories — one serving has only 45-60 calories! It’s also jam-packed with key electrolytes like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Try a skinny sparkling vita-coco lemonade or lemon cranberry spritzer by combining 1 oz of spirits with 4 oz. of coconut water, a little agave syrup for sweetness and lemon juice for flavor.

Tip #4: “Secret Weapon” Let the grocery store cook dinner.

In these busy days leading up to Christmas you can save time and still eat nutritiously. Look for frozen meals that include real ingredients like crunchy vegetables. Some people ask if frozen vegetables are as good for you as fresh and the answer is “yes”. In fact, the FDA has stated there is virtually no nutritional difference between fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. Con Agra Foods, which makes Healthy Choice and Bertolli frozen meals, get their vegetables from farm to freezer within 24 hours and lock in fresh taste.Pumpkin-Squash-Ravioli-3001-t

For lunch or dinner for one try Healthy Choice 100% Naturals. Their pumpkin squash ravioli has crisp asparagus, sweet butternut squash and juicy granny smith apples. They have a variety of flavor options too like Asian potstickers and Tortelini primavera.

524-114728For dinners to feed the family you can pick up Bertolli Mediterranean style meals. Their delicious garlic shrimp, penne, and tomatoes meal is made with extra virgin olive oil. You can also try Grilled chicken and roasted vegetables. They’re authentic Italian, and are made with fresh and simple ingredients. On top of that, each Bertolli meal has two servings of vegetables.

Tip #5: Baking sweets, try some “stealth health”

It is such a fun tradition to bake around the holidays, especially with kids. It can be a bonding experience and a learning opportunity. There is room for nutrition too. I was able to get vegetable, fruit, protein, and whole grain in my pumpkin banana muffins recipe that’s made with oats, eggs, whole wheat flour, and those wonderful seasonal flavors cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. You can buy holiday baking cups as “decoration” and place them in a “cupcake tree” for an added festive touch. Kids will have so much fun helping make them, and it’s a slight, healthier departure from the cookies with frosting and sprinkles. You can get the recipe for these yummy muffins here.

What are your favorite unexpected ingredients to use to put together your holiday meals?

Disclosure: I worked with California Raisins, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Vita Coco, Bertolli and Healthy Choice on these two TV segments and was compensated for my time, but did not receive compensation for putting together this blog post.

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