KOKOMO, Ind. – Would your holiday meal be just as delicious without the stick of butter in your mashed potatoes? With just a few minor tweaks, the go-to, must-have dishes can have a more favorable impact on your health.
Kim Mossburg, a registered dietician who is a lecturer in nutritional science at Indiana University Kokomo, says with a few substitutions, those indulgences can be healthier.
“There are lots of little, better choices we can make,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. Instead of a stick of butter in the mashed potatoes, maybe use a tablespoon. Making use of herbs and spices helps a lot, then people don’t feel the need for what they might use that isn’t such a good choice.”
While planning a menu, she recommends starting with the sides.
“If we can get the focus off the high meat consumption, and refined foods, that would be helpful,” Mossburg noted. “We can start our menu and create it around non-starchy vegetables that are low in calories, like carrots, kale, or spinach, and add in other accents like nuts and seeds.”
Sweet potatoes don’t have to be loaded with marshmallows, butter, and brown sugar to be tasty. Instead, she recommends making them with pineapple and orange, or making sweet potato fries, roasted in the oven drizzled with a little avocado oil and seasoned with chili and garlic.
“I’ve never had anyone who didn’t like those,” she said.
Even baked goods, like cookies and breads, can be improved by using whole grain flour instead of the standard all-purpose, avocado oil in place of butter, and date sugar instead of refined sugar. Pie crust also may be made with whole grain flour and oil, rather than shortening. Those take some practice and experimenting, but are worth it for the added fiber.
“Fiber helps the body absorb it more slowly,” Mossburg said. “You don’t have the huge blood sugar spike that makes all the insulin come out. Anything we can do to increase fiber and whole grains in our diets reduces diabetes.”
Fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes fiber may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains can also make stuffing healthier, by using whole grain bread, increasing the amount of chicken broth, and decreasing the butter. Herbs and spices add flavor, replacing the traditional buttery taste.
Dried fruits add sweetness as well as antioxidants, or molecules that fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm if their levels are too high in the body. They are linked to multiple illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
A dish made with heavy cream, such as alfredo sauce, can be lightened up by replacing the cream with low-fat milk, and adding pureed cauliflower as a thickening agent. The delicious creamy dips may be made with non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and served with veggies or veggie chips instead of crackers.
Meat is not completely off the menu.
“We can choose smaller portions of the meats that people like,” she said. “You can choose turkey or chicken, which are better than beef, if you roast them in the over rather than deep frying.”
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.