Healthy Perspective by Melissa Wieczorek

Lighten Up Your Holiday with these Satisfying Swaps

The holiday season is upon us once again and if you are anything like me you will eat your way from now through December.  But let's not forget the healthy lifestyles we're working so hard to maintain.  Try these simple tips for lighter but equally indulgent sides and desserts without sacrificing flavor (or yourself to the workout Gods come January)!

Sides - Skip the traditional fattening green bean casserole and forget the marshmallow/brown sugary sweet potato mess.  Opt for steaming, sautéing and roasting instead.  You'll save a ton of calories and have beautiful, colorful side dishes packed with flavor.  Here are my top 3 side dish swaps:

Green Beans with Wild Mushroom and Shallots:
Top steamed green beans with a sauté of wild mushrooms and caramelized shallots.  Use a small amount of olive oil to sauté and season it as desired during the last minute of cooking.  Toss the mixture with the green beans or arrange the it over top of the beans.  Trust me.  This sauté will add so much flavor to your beans that you won't miss the sodium laden canned cream of mushroom soup nor the fatty canned fried onions.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Toss cut up sweet potatoes with Brussels sprouts, fresh chopped garlic, olive oil and some curry powder and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish and roast @ 400 for about 15-20 minutes or until veggies are tender and start to brown.

Butternut Squash with Cranberries:
Toss peeled, cubed butternut squash with an onion, halved and sliced thick, salt and pepper and desired seasonings (e.g. Your favorite dried herb blend or cinnamon and nutmeg).   Roast as directed above but stir in some dried cranberries during the last few minutes of cooking.

Dessert - Don't kid yourself.  You know you're going to eat dessert.  So why consume all that fat and sugar during dinner?  In my world it's la pièce de résistance, la raison d'être!  But that doesn't mean we have to eat a slice of pie, a piece of cheesecake and a dozen cookies after dinner.  I confess.  I've done it.  We've all done it.  But let's skip that temptation this year and avoid the morning after self loathing by going mini instead.  Here are my 2 faves:

Cheesecake Parfait
Whip up your favorite holiday no-bake cheesecake recipe using Neufchâtel in lieu of regular cream cheese to save calories and fat. Instead of spreading it into a crust and serving big slices, serve small scoops of the cheesecake mixture in small parfait glasses and top as desired.  For example, add fresh fruit slices to the parfait instead of pie fillings or sprinkle grated dark chocolate over pumpkin cheesecake.  Top with a sprinkle of granola or just a little crumbled up graham cracker crust.

Pecan Pie Bites
Serve up your favorite pecan pie recipe in miniature by baking it in lower calorie phyllo cups instead.  Be sure to adjust your cooking time down to about 10 minutes.  One or two of these rich and sweet bites with a great cup of coffee, espresso or nonfat cappuccino is all you'll need for a satisfying dessert.  Tip:  Halve your recipe or make the whole thing and put some in the freezer to use throughout the holidays.

Melissa Wieczorek
Co-Owner and Chef
A la Maison Personal Chef Service

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