While the holidays are a beautiful time for family gatherings and rich traditions, those big dinners and baskets of baked good and neighbors often come with at least one unwanted result. The average American gains up to five pounds over the course of the holiday season, and it’s no secret that for most of us, it’s much easier to gain the weight than it is to lose it. That said, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and counting calories this time of year can certainly cramp one’s style.
The good news is, even festive family fare can be prepared in a sensible, healthy way that fills tummies without expanding waistlines. This year, I asked readers to submit their favorite healthy winter recipes, and I have to say… the hardest part was choosing which ones to print, and I thoroughly enjoyed the testing and sampling process with my girls! The best part is that it was totally guilt-free!
Submitted by Emily Davey, mom of two daughters, ages 8 and 12, and a 4-year-old son: “This recipe is fairly simple, packed with veggies, and has an amazing taste. It’s filling and perfect for a cold weather lunch. You can double or triple it to serve a crowd.”
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 3 cups chopped green cabbage
- 2 cups chopped zucchini
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cans vegetable broth
- 32oz V-8 juice
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 package (10oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in 8-qt pot over medium heat. Cook garlic and onion in oil about two minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except cheese. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer one hour. Serve with cheese.
Crock Pot Applesauce
Submitted by Lisa Huggins, mom to a 3-year-old son and a 17-month-old daughter: “Who doesn’t love a good crock pot recipe? This one is healthy and versatile, in that you can substitute pears, and make pear sauce if you prefer. But the best part has to be the smell… my house smells like Christmas the whole day!”
- 8–12 medium apples (honeycrisp, gala, and Fuji work well)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 teaspoons light brown sugar
- Peel, core, and chop the apples. Add lemon juice, cinnamon stick, and brown sugar. Set slow cooker to low and cook 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. If you like a chunky apple sauce, lightly whisk or leave as-is. For a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender until you achieve the desired consistency.
- Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt
- Submitted by Adrienne Dumas, mom of one son, age 15: “This recipe is delicious and healthy, and with four ingredients, it’s almost too easy… a too-good-to-be-true kind of dessert!”
- 1 24-oz carton unflavored Greek Yogurt (Author’s note: we used the honey flavor)
- 1 can pumpkin
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar (With the honey-flavored yogurt, I omitted the sugar.)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Churn in an ice cream maker until the desired consistency is reached. (Alternately, place mixture in the freezer and stir every hour or so until it reaches a smooth, cool consistency.)
Spinach and Mozzarella Egg Bake
Submitted by Sarah Lucas, mom of one daughter, age 4: “I’m a vegetarian, and am raising my daughter the same way, so I love this recipe because it’s simple, healthy, and appealing to meat-eaters and non-meat eaters alike!”
- 4 cups packed, fresh spinach
- 1–2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1½ cups 2% milk mozzarella
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced green onions
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt or blend
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 8½" by 12" casserole dish with olive oil or nonstick spray.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add spinach all at once, and stir just until the spinach is wilted, about two minutes. Transfer spinach to the casserole dish, spreading it around so all the bottom of the dish is covered. Layer the grated cheese and sliced onions on top of the spinach.
Beat the eggs with seasoned salt and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach/cheese combination, and then use a fork to gently stir so the eggs, spinach, and cheese are evenly combined.
Bake about 35 minutes or until the mixture is completely set and starting to lightly brown. Let cool about 5 minutes before cutting. (The egg bake will settle down some as it cools.) Serve hot.
Many thanks to all of our readers who submitted a recipe, and to my girls for helping me prepare and sample the finalists! Remember to use common sense when preparing holiday fare. Take smaller portions of dishes that are heavy on fat and/or carbohydrates, and fill up on vegetables, sides, and simple desserts such as these, which will be healthy, flavorful alternatives.
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer from Edmond and a Certified Pharmacy Technician at Innovative Pharmacy Solutions.