The holidays are almost here: endless possibilities to fall off of the diet you’ve so carefully maintained throughout the summer. Without bathing suits and skimpy shorts to face, it’s easy to get sucked into the calorie-loaded fall festivals, Thanksgiving dinners, and holiday parties. Relax! Here are five recipes, main course to dessert, that you can enjoy without a trace of guilt.
1. A No-Cheat Main Course
Turkey and ham, the holiday main courses for most Americans, are definite dietary pitfalls. Ham is loaded with fat (especially when drenched in honey or sweet glazes), and turkey is really just a delivery device for loads of dressing and gravy. Switch up the menu this year and offer the folks a beef tenderloin crusted with horseradish.
Have your butcher trim off the silver skin and extra fat from a 2 1/2 pound beef tenderloin. Preheat your oven to 400, and combine 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Gently salt and pepper the tenderloin, then coat with the horseradish mixture.
Tie it in three places with kitchen string and place in a roasting pan. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes for a medium rare tenderloin. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part should read 140 degrees. Serve with a heaping helping of creamy horseradish sauce on the side. To make creamy horseradish sauce, combine 1 1/4 cups reduced-fat sour cream, 1/3 cup prepared horseradish, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.
2. Guilt-Free Side Dishes
Holiday side dishes normally come swimming in sauce, but there are excellent dishes that serve beautifully and cause exactly zero guilt. Brussels sprouts are loaded with nutrients, and their lovely green color makes an excellent addition to the holiday table.
Braise the Brussels sprouts for about 20 minutes and toast some bread crumbs. Cook a few pieces of bacon until crisp, pat off excess oil, crumble and add to the bread crumbs. Toss with the Brussels sprouts for an easy and guilt-free holiday side dish.
Brussels sprouts gratin pair nicely with baked sweet potatoes and low-calorie butter, some toasted cauliflower sprinkled with parmesan, and a side salad.
3. A Waist-Loving Salad
The problem with most holiday salads is that they’re absolutely drenched in sour cream, mayonnaise, or both. Though low-fat sour cream and mayo are available, not everyone at your dinner table is likely to enjoy these versions. Instead, try your favorite salad recipe with Greek yogurt. It contains far fewer calories, and is positively loaded with nutrients. Best of all, it packs a tangy flavor that adds a whole new zest to traditional salad recipes. Try this Greek yogurt chicken salad for rave reviews.
Boil a whole chicken for about one hour and remove from water. Reserve the water as stock for a soup or stew, if desired. Skin and debone the chicken. Chop up 1 sweet onion, 3-4 stalks of celery, and 3 large dill pickles. Toss in the veggies and generously salt and pepper the chicken and veggies. Stir in one cup of Greek yogurt, or enough to thoroughly coat the chicken and vegetables. If this is your first time using Greek yogurt, you can use half light mayonnaise and half Greek yogurt to get the family’s taste buds adjusted to the change. If desired, add a few chopped apples or grapes for a sweeter chicken salad.
4. It-Ain’t Cheating Snacks
Sometimes, the worst dietary infractions don’t come from the main meal, but from all the nibbling while waiting on dinner. Healthy finger foods are a great way to keep from becoming overly hungry without blowing your entire nutrition plan. These eggplant ricotta bites are nibbles of heavenly goodness, without a string attached!
Slice an eggplant thinly, salt, and bread with a dip in egg followed by a light dip a mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sautee the slices in a nonstick pan with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Work in batches so your oil doesn’t cool too much. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt.
Dice 2 large plum tomatoes and toss gently in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar. Spread a bit of ricotta cheese onto each slice of eggplant, top with a spoon of the tomato mixture, and garnish with shredded basil.
5. You Won’t Believe How Healthy Dessert Can Be
Now that you’ve gone through an entire meal of healthy eating, dessert is no time to throw in the towel! Reward your efforts with these whole wheat sugar cookies. They’re as good as the real thing, yet contain a mere 126 calories each.
Mix 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix 4 ounces softened butter with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. To the sugar mixture, add 1 egg white, 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Add flour mixture and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Remove from the fridge and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, and turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with festive holiday cookie cutters. Bake for 12 minutes (cookies won’t be browned) and allow to cool for an additional 5 minutes. While cooling, stir together 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar, 2 egg whites, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Ice the cookies with the sugar mixture and allow to harden before serving.
Your exercise program does not need to take a back seat. Continue with it, enjoy your guilt-free holiday meals, and face January with confidence and joy – you made it!