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Healthy holiday fare

If holiday festivities bring to mind overindulging in fat-laden feasts and sugar-plum treats, take heart. You don’t have to hibernate to avoid the health traps of winter celebrations. You can eat healthy and enjoy the season. The key is moderation. Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate to help control portion sizes and calories. Choose food wisely at buffets and dinner parties, limit alcohol consumption and balance your splurges with extra exercise.

When you cook, take advantage of seasonal treats that offer significant health benefits such as nuts, dates and figs. Use pecans, walnuts, almonds and peanuts for small snacks and in casseroles, salads, cookies and cakes. Dried fruits, especially cherries, cranberries and apricots, are rich in phytochemicals, plant compounds believed to play a role in warding off heart disease and cancer. Choose fresh or frozen produce, lower-fat versions of dairy ingredients and whole grains for side dishes, breads, rolls and stuffing. Add some new recipes to your table, like the healthy versions here, and make eating well a holiday tradition.

Roasted turkey breast with cranberry sauce


  • 1 boneless, skinless turkey breast half (about 21/4 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 tsp. cumin seed, crushed
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cranberry sauce

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried apple slices
  • Grated rind of 1 orange
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup all-fruit apple butter
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup

Rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a large, nonreactive bowl (plastic, glass or stainless steel), combine yogurt, garlic, vinegar, pepper, cumin, rosemary, ginger and cinnamon. Add turkey and turn to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning the meat occasionally.

While turkey is marinating, combine cranberries, apples, orange rind and orange juice in a food processor or blender. Process until finely chopped but not pureed. Transfer mixture to a medium saucepan. Add the apple butter and maple syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

To roast turkey, remove from marinade and place in an oven cooking bag. Discard marinade. Roast turkey according to manufacturer’s directions or until internal temperature reaches 170°. Start checking internal temperature after 1 hour.

Remove turkey from cooking bag and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with cranberry sauce.

Serves 8. Per serving: 252 calories, 1.2 g fat (4% of calories), 32.6 g protein, 27.5 g carbohydrates, 1.9 g dietary fiber, 85 mg cholesterol, 76 mg sodium

Glazed acorn squash rings

  • 4 small acorn squash
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 seedless oranges, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 6 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch thick rings. Remove and discard seeds. Coat a large nonstick jelly-roll pan with nonstick spray. Place squash in a single layer on the prepared pan. Pour orange juice over squash. Cover with foil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until squash is almost tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove squash from oven and add orange slices in a single layer. Drizzle with maple syrup. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover pan and return it to oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until squash is lightly caramelized and tender. (Flip oranges and squash at least twice as they bake, basting with pan juices each time.)

Serves 8. Per serving: 118 calories, 0.2 g fat (2% of calories), 1.6 g protein, 30.3 g carbohydrates, 3.1 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 mg sodium

Mashed potatoes

  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tsp. nondiet tub-style margarine
  • 3 tsp. butter-flavored sprinkles
  • 1 to 11/2 cups 1% low-fat milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Paprika

Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain well.

Return potatoes to pan or transfer to a large bowl. Add margarine and butter-flavored sprinkles. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, mash thoroughly. Beat in milk and sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Beat in salt, pepper and paprika.

Serves 8. Per serving: 169 calories, 1.9 g fat (10% of calories), 4.6 g protein, 34.1 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, 1 mg cholesterol, 341 mg sodium

Root vegetable variation: Add 1 pound carrots, turnips, parsnips or rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, to saucepan along with potatoes. Increase cooking time to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. When mashing vegetables, add enough reserved cooking liquid to achieve desired texture.

Hot-mulled apple-cranberry punch

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Rind of 1 orange, cut in 1 continuous strip
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Orange slices

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine water, cranberries, apple cider, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, nutmeg and orange rind. Bring to a boil. When the cranberries begin to pop, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until berries are tender. Remove from the heat.

Strain mixture, discarding solids. Pour into mugs and serve warm, garnished with cinnamon sticks and orange slices.

Serves 6. Per 3/4 cup serving: 118 calories, 0.2 g fat (1% of calories), 0.3 g protein, 31.4 g carbohydrates, 1.9 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium

Recipes reprinted with permission from Prevention’s The Healthy Cook. ©1997 by Rodale, Inc.