Holiday Recipes Makeover

Traditional holiday dishes can stir up a bad case of heartburn - as well as pack on the pounds. Here's how to lighten your favorite recipes, but keep the satisfying taste.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Cynthia Haines, MD

What's a holiday feast without a turkey or a roast with all the trimmings?

Indeed, that's what we love about the holidays -- all that rich satisfying food we don't often get. We load up the dinner plate with our favorites, then go back for more. Trouble is, those foods are full of fat. For people prone to heartburn, too much fat - and too much food - that is just asking for problems.

"Holiday foods are rich, festive foods, which is why we gravitate toward them," Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, tells WebMD. "These are foods we don't normally eat, and we tend to indulge in them. That's what gets us into trouble."

In the kitchen, there are tricks that cooks can use to lighten the fare. "No one's here to take away the traditional flavors," says Magee, who is WebMD Weight Loss Clinic's 'Recipe Doctor.' "We have a way of making mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pie a few pounds lighter (in fat) without compromising taste and integrity."

To make a lighter version of turkey gravy, use the brown bits at the bottom of the pan to flavor your gravy, she suggests. "Don't add too much of the actual fat, because the flavor is in the brown bits... not so much the 'drippings.' For creamy gravy, I use fat-free half-and-half or low-fat or whole milk instead of real half-and-half."

Magee's book Tell Me What to Eat if I Have Acid Reflux offers these suggestions:

  • Most pumpkin pie recipes call for at least 1 cup of cream or evaporated whole milk and 2 eggs. Use evaporated skim and 3 egg whites to cut about 300 calories and 30-38 grams of fat.
  • Buy brown-and-serve bread rolls instead of higher-fat crescent rolls to cut about 1,100 extra calories and about 100 grams of fat per dozen.
  • Use light cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese in your holiday dips, spreads, and cheesecakes to cut about 16 grams of fat per cup of cream cheese.
  • Use a great tasting fat-free sour cream (like "Naturally Yours" in the black-and-white cow hide container) for dips, spreads, and potato dishes to cut about 320 calories and about 35 grams of fat per cup of sour cream.
  • Use reduced-fat cheese in cheese logs, appetizers, and side dishes to cut 36 grams of fat and 320 calories for every 8 ounces.
  • Make dips, appetizers, and side dishes using a blend of real mayonnaise and fat-free sour cream. This cuts over 1,000 calories and 132 grams of fat per cup of mayo.

When we cut fat, we cut calories and heartburn, Magee tells WebMD. "The dish still tastes great, so there's still a feeling of satisfaction."

Her stuffing recipe, for instance, uses much less butter than traditional recipes -- with chicken broth serving as the substitute. Also, her recipe doesn't use spicy sausage. "Both the spices and the fatty sausage can be problematic for people," Magee tells WebMD. "A traditional recipe for dressing would have twice the fat that's in my recipe."

Here's another tip: When going to a potluck, take a "safe" dish - one you know you can eat without heartburn trouble. "You'll know there's at least one thing there you can eat," Magee says.

Here are three recipes from recipe doctor Elaine Magee, MPH, RD.

Creamy Green Bean Bake

4 cups lightly cooked French-style frozen green beans
10-3/4 oz.-can condensed Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup (or similar)
1/2 cup fat-free or light sour cream
1 tbsp diced pimento (optional)
1/4 cup canned chow mein fried noodles

  • Lightly cook frozen beans.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a 1-quart casserole dish or 9x9 inch dish, combine condensed soup, sour cream, and pimento. Measure 4 cups of cooked green beans, add to dish, and stir.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle chow mein noodles over the top and bake 5 minutes more.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 102 calories, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 2 gram fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 337 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

O'Brien Potato Casserole

2 lbs. Ore-Ida Potatoes O'Brien (about 8 cups)
2 cups fat-free or light sour cream
6 green onions, white and part of green, finely chopped
10 3/4 oz.-can Healthy Request condensed cream of mushroom soup (or similar)
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 tbsp butter sprinkles (such as Molly McButter)
8 oz. shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 oz. reduced-fat Ruffles potato chips, crushed (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 13-x-9 inch baking pan with canola cooking spray.
  • Thaw potatoes and combine with all ingredients except the potato chips. Spread into prepared pan and top with crushed chips if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Makes 16 servings.

Per serving: 115 calories, 7 g protein, 14.5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g fiber, 10 mg cholesterol, 308 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Cranberry Walnut Dressing

(Eliminate onions if they are one of your heartburn trigger foods.)

1 1/2 cups finely sliced celery heart
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
3 tbsp butter or canola margarine
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (liquid)
16 oz.-can whole berry cranberry sauce
4 tsp. or cubes of low-sodium chicken broth (powder)
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (liquid)
3/4 tsp. ground sage
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
14 oz. (about 8 cups) herb-seasoned bread cubes for stuffing
2/3 cups walnuts, toasted for 1 minute under broiler to lightly brown

  • In a Dutch oven or stock pot, simmer celery and onion in the butter and 1 cup chicken broth until tender. While onion and celery mixture is simmering in a small saucepan, mix cranberry sauce with the 4 tsp. of chicken broth powder over low heat until broth powder dissolves.
  • Add seasonings and 2 cups chicken broth to celery onion mixture. Add bread cubes and stir until evenly moistened. Drizzle cranberry mixture over the top of the bread mixture and sprinkle walnuts over cranberry mixture. Stir to mix evenly. Cover and let sit on warm setting of stove for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Makes about 16 servings of 1 cup per person.

Per serving: 200 calories, 4.5 g protein, 32.5 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 415 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Published Oct. 24, 2005.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from Tell Me What to Eat if I Have Acid Reflux © 2002 Elaine Magee. Published by Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD Weight Loss Clinic's Recipe Doctor, author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux.

©2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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