Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe #3: Lighter Mashed Potatoes!

For most people, Thanksgiving is about turkey and mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes have a special place in most people's hearts, and they don't want them messed with. Thanksgiving is not the day that I would have you add cauliflower to the potatoes to make it more nutrient rich, since you may make many of your guests angry if they notice. However, I do suggest that you lighten up the traditional mashed potato, and I can almost guarantee that no one will notice. Plus, most people layer on the gravy, and many end up mixing everything together anyway- so they won't notice if the potatoes are a little lighter on the butter and cream.

Below is my recipe for enlightened mashed potatoes. Please be aware that this recipe is not super nutritious, if I were trying to do that I wouldn't have you peel them and would have you add cauliflower. I simply want to make these a healthier version than what you would normally get at a Thanksgiving feast.


3 pounds baking potatoes -- peeled and cut in 3" chunks
3 tablespoons light butter

3/4 cup skim milk
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt or light yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch white pepper
Spices (cayenne, chives, etc.)

Place potatoes in cold water for a few minutes to remove excess starch.

Boil potatoes in water for 15-20 minutes until fork can poke through easily. Drain and return to pot. Over high heat, dry potatoes by keeping them over the heat for 1-2 minutes until all extra moisture is evaporated.

Mash potatoes in large bowl. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter and milk and bring to a simmer. Pour the liquid over potatoes and mix. Add yogurt, salt, pepper and any spices and blend well into potatoes. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to serving bowl and serve immediately.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Average Nutritional Value of Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Just in case you were trying to prioritize what goes on your plate on Thanksgiving, I have listed the average nutritional value of the average Thanksgiving meal. Please keep in mind that I came up with these numbers by looking at typical recipes for the menu items and calculating the averages- so there will be some variation based on quantity used and types of ingredients used (light butter vs. regular, whole milk vs. 2%, etc). I recommend loading half your plate with straight veggies (i.e: not casseroles, or creamy vegetable dishes) if that's an option (perhaps steal some from the appetizer veggie tray?), light meat turkey- NO SKIN!, corn, and sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce/relish if they are made like I suggested in my blogs from earlier this week (or just w/o copious amounts of butter and sugar). My best recommendation is to go light on the stuffing and mashed potatoes, those are loaded with unhealthy fats and the calories add up quickly.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't feel tired after your Thanksgiving meal from just the Turkey. While it is true that Turkey contains tryptophan which makes you sleepy, it contains no more than eggs, chicken, lentils, peanuts, and many other protein-containing foods. What makes you tired is the amount of carbohydrates you consume with the turkey (carbohydates increase tryptophan and serotonin in the brain, thus making you sleepy), the amount of food you eat (the blood is directed to your gut instead of other parts of the body instead of your appendages), and the alcohol if you choose to drink. So, if you don't want to feel tired, stick with proper portion size and create a well-balanced plate (veg, protein, starches, fruit, dairy), go light on the alcohol, and take a walk after you eat!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe #2: Orange-Cranberry Relish

Canned cranberry sauce not only looks gross, but the ingredients make you second guessing whether it actually counts as a fruit serving: INGREDIENTS: Cranberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Corn Syrup.
Don't be fooled by "whole berry" canned cranberry sauce- most of these are just the same concoction of HFCS and corn syrup, but the cranberries are not pureed: INGREDIENTS: Cranberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Corn Syrup

Making homemade cranberry sauce is not difficult and takes very little time. Even if you use full-sugar recipes, they will still be better than using the can which is shelf-stable for years. You will be consuming real fruit with higher levels of antioxidants, and you have control over what type of sugar you add in.

Below is my recipe for a Honey Cranberry Orange Relish. Orange zest adds a nice flavor and more antioxidants to any recipe (I forgot to mention to add it to the sweet potato casserole!). I even add orange zest to my oat bran in the morning. A cranberry relish is a nice twist on the usual cranberry sauce, and is much lower in sugar.

Honey Cranberry Orange Relish

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 large navel orange, chopped fine w/ peel on
1/3 cup sugar (or use a sugar substitute to make even lower-calorie)
1/4 cup honey or agave
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
dash of vanilla or almond extract

Rinse cranberries & scrub orange peel (I recommend using organic for this recipe). Put all ingredients into pot on stove. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until cranberries pop and sauce begins to get thick. Remove from heat and let cool. 

Makes 10 servings (> 2 tbsp each).
NUTRITION PER SERVING: 78 calories, 0 g fat, 20 g carb (2 g fiber), 17 g sugar, 25% DV Vit C

*Source: Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce Label

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe #1: Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole

This blog marks my first healthy Thanksgiving recipe of the week (more to come!). Sweet potatoes are my favorite food and most people seem to really enjoy these starchy vegetables on Thanksgiving. However, the typical sweet potato casserole is loaded with sugar and butter, which is completely unnecessary and ruins the integrity of the sweet potato. The problem is that most of these recipes have you boil the sweet potatoes, which is a sin and almost as bad as microwaving a sweet potato. Boiling or microwaving does not allow the potato to develop its sugars and become syrupy on its own. The only way to make this happen is to bake or grill the potato. That is why, for any sweet potato dish, ALWAYS bake or grill, and NEVER microwave or boil.

The following recipe is simple and healthy, and really, you don't need a recipe at all. Each year I add new things and come up with a brand new casserole every Thanksgiving. Here is just a basic recipe to get you thinking of how to make a casserole and adapt it to your tastes and ingredients on hand. You can add vanilla, raisins, dates, oats, whatever you want to it- make it your own!

5 medium sweet potatoes
2 large apples (whatever variety you want)
1/3 cup brown sugar (or you can substitute agave, honey, light maple syrup, Splenda for baking, etc)
Dash of vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Scrub and rinse sweet potatoes. Place in tin foil in pan and bake for about an hour at 375-400 (if you are baking other things, use whatever temperature you want). You want potatoes to be 75% done, not completely soft at this point. Take them out of the oven.

Let potatoes cool and peel (you can use a knife to cut off skins- save and eat later- delicious & nutritious!).

Chop apples with the skin on. Slice potatoes into 1" thick slices. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar (or sugar substitute).

Spray a baking dish (whatever size will fit the potatoes & apples- 8" x 8" or 9" x 13") with PAM.

Layer apples, potatoes, and spice mixture in pan. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, light butter, and chopped pecans. Spread on top of potatoes & apples.

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes until browning and apples & potatoes are soft.


Makes 10 Servings.
Estimation of nutrition using all real, packed brown sugar:
166 Calories, 4.5 g fat, 61 mg sodium, 340 mg potassium, 36 g carb (3.5 g fiber), 2 g protein, 72% DV Vit A, 12% DV B6, 15% DV Vit C, 6% DV Iron)

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm on Yelp!

Hello my blog followers. I am now able to be found on Yelp and would appreciate anyone who has met with me for nutrition counseling to write a review:

If you haven't met with me and would like to, please know that if you have: 
INDEPENDENCE BLUE CROSS Insurance (Personal Choice or Keystone Health Plan East) you get 6 free sessions each year with a registered dietitian (me!). In the next few weeks I will also begin taking AETNA Health Plan which has a similar benefit.

If you are interested in meeting with me or have any questions, please contact me at:

UPDATE ON ALMOND MILK RECOMMENDATION: I have tried several brands of unsweetened vanilla almond milks and thus far I have determined that Trader Joe's variety is by far the  most delicious. It is creamy, flavorful, and super nutritious (high in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E at just $3.00 for a half-gallon and only 40 calories/cup). Use in oat bran, high protein cereals, or drink on its own or with low-sugar hot chocolate. This almond milk I can even put in coffee and it tastes good! (I find that other varieties add a strange taste). Let me know what you think!