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The holidays are too short to waste time feeling guilty about what’s on your plate. Though a few indulgences can be part of a healthy diet this time of year, traditional dishes can pack a lot of hidden calories you’d rather save for the good stuff. These recipe tweaks will help you enjoy a healthy and happy holiday.


Recipe #1: Creamed Spinach

Spinach may be a nutrient-packed super-food, but drowning it in butter and cream undoes all that awesomeness—to the tune of 200 calories and 12 grams of fat per ½ cup serving. Swapping out the heavy cream and butter for skim milk and Greek yogurt allows you to enjoy the flavor without the fat.

Ingredients: Serves 8

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cup skim or unsweetened almond milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 16-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained


  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Sautee onion and garlic until soft.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Add milk and cheese. Whisk in salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  3. Add yogurt and mix well until smooth. Fold in spinach. Cook until heated through.


Recipe #2: Mashed Potatoes

A ¾ cup serving of mashed potatoes with whole milk and butter clocks in around 200 calories and 7 grams of fat. These white bean mashed potatoes are a tasty low-fat, high-fiber alternative that boasts 6 grams of protein per serving—great if you have any vegans at the table.

Ingredients: Serves 12

  • 4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place potato chunks in a large pot and fill with water until covered. Boil potatoes until tender and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté garlic in the oil until soft. Add beans, rosemary, and salt and pepper.
  3. Puree bean mixture using an immersion blender or food processor.
  4. Mash potatoes with a masher to desired texture.
  5. Add bean mixture to potatoes and mix well, continuing to mash, if desired.


Recipe #3: Candied Yams

This holiday favorite can be a total calorie bomb, thanks to brown sugar and marshmallows. These sweet potato coins are roasted in coconut oil and sweetened with a touch of honey. With the natural flavor of the potatoes shining through, you won’t miss the sugar. Why not save the dessert for…dessert?

Ingredients: Serves 8

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, cut into ½-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss sweet potato rounds with coconut oil. Roast on baking sheets for about 15 minutes. Turn and cook another 15 minutes or until tender.
  3. Toss with honey, salt and pepper.


Recipe #4: Baked Ham

Ham may be a leaner choice than other favorites like duck and prime rib, but a serving of cured, roasted ham provides 1850 mg of sodium—more than most of us need in an entire day. Then there’s the sugary glaze…Pork tenderloin is a delicious alternative.

Ingredients: Serves 8

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin ( ~2 pounds)
  • 1-2 tablespoon oil for pan


  1. Mix together garlic, mustard, wine, syrup and oil. Toss with pork to coat. Marinate for 3 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  3. Roast pork for about 25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Let meat rest a few minutes before transferring to a serving platter.
  4. Meanwhile, pour marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until thick enough to call glaze.
  5. Slice pork and pour glaze on top.


Recipe #5: Apple Pie

Using honey or maple syrup instead of white sugar lets you get away with using less and offers extra antioxidants. Try white whole-wheat flour if making your own crust. A lattice-top is also great because less crust on your pie=less crust you eat. Besides, it’s so pretty, you won’t miss the extra calories.

Ingredients: Serves 8

  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 pie crusts


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Toss apple pieces with cinnamon until well mixed. Add maple syrup.
  3. Add flour as needed to thicken. Mix well.
  4. Pour apple mixture into one of the crusts.
  5. Slice the other crust into thin strips and arrange in a lattice pattern over the pie. Roll extra crust into a ball and freeze for later use.
  6. Bake until golden brown, about 1 hour. If edge of crust begins to burn, cover with foil.



Recipe #6: Holiday Punch

The calories in juice and alcohol add up quickly. How about a festive champagne cocktail instead? This classic clocks in at just over100 calories. Cheers!


  • 1 sugar cube
  • Angostura bitters
  • 4 ounces Champagne
  • Lemon twist


  1. Sprinkle bitters over sugar cube. Place in the bottom of a champagne flute.
  2. Fill flute with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.


Recipe #7: The Cheese Platter

It’s easy to overindulge during the cocktail hour. Popping lots of small items like cheese and crackers makes it hard to track your intake. Try using a plate—it helps you see how much you’re actually eating.

For a better cheese plate, use smaller amounts of high-quality cheese to up the enjoyment factor. Most of us would have to eat a lot of grocery store mild cheddar to get the satisfaction found in more robust cheeses. A few festive options include herbed goat cheese, truffled pecorino, and creamy blue cheese. Serve with raw veggies, grapes, and apple slices, along with whole-grain crackers and thinly sliced baguette.


Written by Jessica Cording, MS, RDN, CDN. Jessica is a Rise Coach and Registered Dietitian who lives in New York City. In addition to nutrition counseling, Jessica writes for various food/health publications and works with restaurants on menu development. Want to work with Jessica or another Rise coach like her? Get started at