December 2013 Issue

Dietitians’ Holiday Party Recipes
By Juliann Schaeffer
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 15 No. 12 P. 26

Clients can eat, drink, and be healthy during this festive season as they serve these dishes that contain less fat, sugar, sodium, and calories than the traditional versions.

‘Tis the season for exchanging gifts, baking cookies, and receiving invitations to various holiday parties. While these get-togethers are meant to gather friends and loved ones for some festive fellowship, the typical high-calorie fare that frequents such events often leaves partygoers feeling guilty about overindulging.

Comforting holiday dishes, though typically high in fat, sodium, sugar, and calories, don’t have to be decadent to be delicious. By downsizing portions and sprucing up ingredients with more healthful substitutions, clients can make sure their next night out includes at least one smarter option—ensuring they can have their holiday cheer and eat well, too.

Today’s Dietitian spoke with five RDs who shared some of their favorite holiday recipes—with less fat, sugar, sodium, and calories than the traditional versions—for appetizers, side dishes, and desserts that will be a big hit with clients, patients, and their families and friends.

7-Layer Lemon Hummus & Pesto Yogurt Dip
A Mediterranean spin on the Tex-Mex party favorite, from Clean Eating for Busy Families by Michelle Dudash, RDN, each 1/4-cup serving contains only 77 kcal, 1 g of saturated fat (5 g of total fat), and 243 mg of sodium. “Compare that to traditional Mexican seven-layer dip, which contains 320 kcal, 3 g of saturated fat, and 720 mg sodium per 1/4 cup,” says Dudash, adding that her version also contains 5% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.

And don’t worry—according to Dudash, this dip still is sure to please party guests, even without the high caloric load. “I’ve witnessed friends devour my dip the same as they would the traditional. It’s a crowd pleaser!” she says.

Serves 20

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 T tahini (sesame seed paste found in the ethnic food section, or use unsweetened almond butter)
1 lemon separated into 1 tsp grated zest, 3 T juice
3 T organic or reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup basil pesto
1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese (or use crumbled feta for a stronger taste)
1 large tomato, seeded, diced 1/4 inch (1 cup)
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded with a spoon, and diced (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced

For dipping
Serve grilled or toasted whole-grain pita chips or flatbread torn into pieces
Romaine hearts

1. To make the hummus: Purée chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, broth, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil. Spread hummus evenly in the bottom of a 9- X 9-inch glass dish.

2. Stir together yogurt and pesto and spoon over hummus. Evenly sprinkle the cheese, followed by single layers of tomato, cucumber, scallions, and olives. Enjoy this dish on the same or the next day for optimal freshness.

*Note: For a more festive look, use a trifle-style glass bowl rather than a square baking dish. It makes for a great-looking potluck contribution.

Nutrient Analysis per 1/4-cup serving
Calories: 77; Total fat: 5 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 4 mg; Sodium: 243 mg; Total carbohydrate: 5 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Protein: 4 g

— Recipe reprinted with permission from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes With Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love by Michelle Dudash, RDN (Fair Winds Press, December 2012)

Tofu Sea Cakes
Crab cakes on the buffet line may make seafood lovers smile, but a regular fried crab cake contains about 18 g of fat and more than 250 kcal. Instead, suggest clients get creative and try these Tofu Sea Cakes by Laura Rosenberg, MS, RD, CDN, owner of Green Napkin Nutrition. True, they don’t contain seafood, but with the Old Bay seasoning, guests will be hard-pressed to notice. This version also boasts a much healthier nutrient composition—only 6 g of fat and 129 kcal—as well as phytonutrient-packed tofu.

Serves 8

3/4 cup minced celery
3/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced carrot
1 small roasted red pepper
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 block tofu, pressed and dried
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 sheet nori, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
2 T Old Bay seasoning
1 T dried mustard
1/2 cup vegan mayo
Olive oil cooking spray

Chipotle Mayo
1 T chipotle with adobo
1/2 cup vegan mayo

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Sauté vegetables in olive oil until soft. Add parsley and cook 1 to 2 more minutes. Let cool.

2. Put tofu in food processor. Pulse until crumbly. Add bread crumbs and nori and pulse again until blended. Put into a bowl and add vegetables, seasonings, and vegan mayo. Mix until well blended.

3. Form patties and let sit in fridge for 30 minutes to set. Put on prepared baking sheet. Spray with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Turn, spray with more oil if dry, and bake another 20 minutes.

4. Mix mayo and chipotle. Serve tofu sea cakes with chipotle mayo.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 129; Total fat: 6 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 82 mg; Total carbohydrate: 9 g; Dietary fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 2 g; Protein: 8 g

— Recipe courtesy of Laura Rosenberg, MS, RD, CDN

Secret Stuffed Mushrooms
The “secret” behind this perfect party finger food recipe, by Sara Nicole Ansari, RD, a San Francisco-based dietitian in private practice, founder of, and a health coach for Omada Health, is marinating the mushrooms, which adds a depth of flavor without adding fat. “The fresh garlic and Italian parsley stuffing provides many heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer benefits,” she says.

According to Ansari, the lower fat partially can be attributed to the part-skim mozzarella cheese, which naturally is lower in fat than the traditional provolone cheese used, and the whole wheat panko bread crumbs contribute 50% less fat, 30% fewer carbs, 36% fewer calories, and 88% less sodium than traditional bread crumbs.

Makes about 30 mushrooms

Two 8-oz packages white button mushrooms
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, washed, and chopped
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Two 1-oz part-skim mozzarella cheese deli slices, cut into thin 1-inch squares

1. Carefully break off stems and clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Discard stems. Combine mushroom caps, balsamic vinegar, and garlic powder in a large plastic bag. Marinate for at least 2 hours.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Stuff each mushroom cap with about 1 tsp of the bread crumb–parsley mixture or until the cavity is full.

3. Cut each deli slice of part-skim mozzarella into 15 small squares, or enough for one small piece per mushroom. Top each stuffed mushroom cap with a small square of part-skim mozzarella cheese.

4. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 12 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Mushrooms may be prepared and stuffed ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake. Serve hot.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (2 mushrooms)
Calories: 52; Total fat: 3 g; Sodium: 52 mg; Total carbohydrate: 4 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Protein: 3 g

— Recipe courtesy of Sara Nicole Ansari, RD

1920s Black and White Cookies
Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, RD, recently made over the iconic 1920s black and white cookie, still a mainstay in many New York City bakeries today, to balance out its indulgence with a bit of healthfulness. Using whole wheat pastry flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour adds some whole grains; using canola oil in place of butter, as well as low-fat buttermilk, swaps out some saturated fat; and a smaller portion allows party guests to partake in just the right amount of indulgence.

“These cookies are traditionally jumbo sized, but you can halve them to make 12 smaller cookies—just bake them a few minutes less,” Krieger says.

As someone who’s had her share of this American classic, you can trust Krieger to get it right. “Growing up in the Big Apple, it was one of my childhood favorites,” she says.

Makes 6 jumbo cookies or 12 smaller cookies


Canola oil cooking spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

Vanilla Icing
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
2 to 4 tsp water

Chocolate Icing
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 to 6 tsp water

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray baking sheet with canola oil cooking spray. In medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk or hand blender, beat egg, canola oil, and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow, then stir in vanilla.

3. Mix about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then stir in 1/2 of the buttermilk until combined. Stir in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk followed by the remaining flour mixture, stirring to combine with each addition.

4. Dollop scant 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the baking sheet so each is about 3 inches in diameter. Leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie because they will spread. Bake until set and just golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on tray for 5 minutes, then use metal spatula to transfer to rack to cool completely before making icing.

5. To make vanilla icing, in small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, and 2 tsp water. Add remaining water 1 tsp at a time until icing is thick but spreadable. Spread icing on half of each cookie.

6. To make chocolate icing, in another small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in corn syrup, vanilla extract, and 3 tsp water. Add remaining water 1 tsp at a time, stirring to combine, until icing is thick but spreadable. Ice other half of each cookie.

7. Allow icing to set for 30 minutes. Store at room temperature in single layer. Do not stack until icing is hardened.

*Note: Whole wheat all-purpose flour can be substituted for whole wheat pastry flour.

Nutrient Analysis per serving per 1/2 jumbo cookie or 1 small cookie
Calories: 200; Total fat: 7 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 17 mg; Sodium: 110 mg; Total carbohydrate: 33 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Protein: 2.5 g

— Recipe courtesy of the “Decades of Decadence” recipe collection by Ellie Krieger, RD

Mini Pumpkin Tarts
Compared with a traditional slice of pumpkin pie, which has around 350 kcal, these Mini Pumpkin Tarts have only 40 kcals each—allowing guests to savor a few, if so inclined, and still have plenty of calories to spare. “Substituting Chobani Greek yogurt for heavy cream in this recipe and the smaller portion size saves about 300 kcal and roughly 10 g of fat,” says Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, health communications manager for Chobani.

Serves 15

1 package frozen mini tart shells (15 shells)
1 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup Chobani Vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 large egg
1 T dark brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)
15 mint leaves for garnishing

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place pastry shells on rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat shells with melted butter.

2. Whisk Chobani, pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl until smooth.

3. Spoon about 1 T of filling into each shell and bake until filling is set and shells are golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before topping with whipped cream and a mint leaf.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (1 tart shell)
Calories: 40; Total fat: 2 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 20 mg; Total carbohydrate: 4 g; Dietary fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 2 g; Protein: 1 g

— Recipe courtesy of Chobani Kitchen

— Juliann Schaeffer is a freelance writer and editor based in Alburtis, Pennsylvania, and a frequent contributor to Today’s Dietitian.


Delicious Store-Bought Holiday Picks
Not everyone can whip up a pumpkin pie or festive side dish on a whim—or even with a recipe. And some people just prefer to bring store-bought foods to a holiday party whether because of time constraints or other factors, such as food allergies and food sensitivities. While the supermarket baked goods section is packed with high-fat, sugary snacks, and the frozen foods aisle contains high-fat, high-sodium appetizers and other foods, there are more healthful premade options available, such as the following party-appropriate picks.

Gluten-Free Options
Guests with celiac disease or nonceliac gluten sensitivity are sure to appreciate any effort made to tend to their special dietary needs, but cooking without gluten can be a daunting task for anyone not accustomed to doing it. For hosts daring enough to try, Pacific recently launched Organic Simply Stocks. Available in chicken and vegetable varieties, the stocks are gluten free and made with no added salt. Pacific also makes an organic holiday line of gluten-free products, from whole-berry and jellied cranberry sauce to pumpkin purée.

Pamela’s mixes take the guesswork out of gluten-free baking. With bread, pizza crust, and baking and pancake mixes, partygoers or hosts can make gingerbread cookies, dinner rolls, or pumpkin bread, respectively. The mixes come in smaller bags for one-time baking or larger 4-lb bags when baking for a crowd or to use for subsequent parties.

Among Friends also provides some gluten-free cookie-baking assistance. Of six baking mix options, four are gluten free, including a double chocolate cookie and a spicy molasses ginger cookie. All GMO free and made with whole grains, these cookie mixes can be assembled with pantry items (vanilla, butter, and eggs) and baked in less than 10 minutes—perfect for that last-minute invite.

One easy gluten-free side dish that heats up in just one minute is Minute Rice’s Minute Multi-Grain Medley, a blend of four gluten-free, 100% whole grains: long grain brown rice, Thai red rice, wild rice, and quinoa. Tell clients and patients to read the packaging carefully when picking this up, because Minute Rice makes two other Multi-Grain Medleys (Ready to Serve and Steamers) that aren’t gluten free.

Healthful Snacks
For the snack table, RW Garcia makes red and green artisan tortilla chips just for the holiday season. Made with organic red beet powder and organic spinach powder, they’re great for a Christmas party dip tray. The chips contain no trans fats, additives, or preservatives and are certified gluten free.

Glutino’s yogurt pretzels, available this holiday season in a peppermint variety, are another great gluten-free snack option. For guests who don’t have issues with gluten, LUNA has two bars in festive flavors: Chocolate Peppermint Stick and Carrot Cake, their newest introduction, which makes for a healthful snacking alternative to traditional high-fat chips and dips.

For guests who don’t eat meat but still want that holiday “roast” on the table, Gardein makes a vegan Holiday Roast accompanied by a cranberry wild rice stuffing and a home-style vegan gravy. It cooks in just under 45 minutes.

Looking for a stocking stuffer or even a foodie party favor? In addition to their staple beverage Ginger Brew, Reed’s makes ginger chews (in original and peanut butter flavors) that come in a resealable box and are individually wrapped. Serve them as a candy alternative or hand them out as party favors. Reed’s also makes crystallized ginger, which comes in original and chocolate covered.

Another healthful gift idea: NatureBox, an online monthly subscription service that delivers 15 to 20 servings of healthful snack foods to consumers’ doors. Each month brings five new snacks, such as roasted garlic pumpkin seeds and chipotle maple almonds in the Healthful Holiday Habits box or vanilla macaroon granola in the Wholesome Comfort Foods box.

— JS


6 Party Survival Tips for Clients
“Don’t go hungry” and “load up on the veggies.” These two tips are pretty tried-and-true when it comes to navigating the expansive food spreads at most holiday parties. But for clients requesting more tools to eat healthfully (but still have fun) while running from one get-together to another this holiday season, RDs have come up with their best tips to help them stay on track.

1. Use your palm for portion control. “My favorite portion control tool is with you at all times: the palm of your hand,” says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, director of wellness coaching for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The palm of a woman’s hand is approximately 3 oz of meat; 1/2 cup of rice, pasta, or a small baked potato; or 1/2 cup of vegetables. This can be very helpful when putting food on your plate.”

2. Use caution with the “c” words. “Watch out for dishes that are cheesy, creamy, or crispy, like potatoes au gratin or fried appetizers, which are likely high in saturated fat and calories,” says Jessica Cox, RD, a culinary nutritionist at eMeals. Sauces and gravies also are best to skip, as they often add calories and fat to otherwise healthful vegetables, she adds.

3. Drink wisely. “Alcohol, punches, and ciders can add 800 kcal to your meal if you overdo it,” says Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, health communications manager for Chobani. “Focus on eating your calories at holiday parties, not drinking them.”

4. Dilute the wine. According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, manager of wellness nutrition services for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, one way to imbibe without ingesting too many extra calories is to make a wine spritzer. “Having too much alcohol is a surefire way to lose control on the dance floor and at the buffet table,” she says. “Instead, mix 2 oz of wine with diet 7UP or a little cranberry juice for a wine spritzer. You’ll be able to draw out your drinks throughout the night without getting out of control.”

5. Sit among friends, not food. Pulling up a chair by the fire or a living room window may save more calories than you’d think, according to Sara Nicole Ansari, RD, a San Francisco-based dietitian in private practice and a health coach for Omada Health. “Situate yourself away from the food,” she says. “Find somewhere else to socialize other than in the kitchen or by the buffet table. Remember, holiday parties are about spending quality time with others, laughter, and giving thanks. It’s not an excuse to eat.”

6. Move your body, sleep more. Remind clients that what happens before (and after) holiday parties is at least as important as what’s eaten at one, two, or even five nightly occasions. “Retaining your regular physical regime during the holidays also will help to burn off those added calories consumed at the parties,” says Anna Ardine, MBA, RD, LDN, clinical manager at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and a leadership support dietitian for Sodexo. “And get adequate sleep. We often eat too much when we’re tired.”

— JS