‘Tis the season for eating crazy delicious food, albeit unhealthy, but yummy food nonetheless. This year I’m trying to swap out some unhealthy options for healthier ones, for example mashed sweet potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes. Ok, maybe using Paula Deen’s recipe that calls for all that butter doesn’t make it that healthy, but kinda sorta maybe, right? I was able to chat with Lauren O’Connor a registered dietitian with twin toddlers of her very own about swapping out traditional sides for healthier versions. Here are some of the recipes Lauren shared with me.

Lauren O’Connor

Want a healthy alternative to stuffing? Well, here’s a salad I came up with that tastes great, has no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and a lot less sodium. It is a delightful blend of grains with nuts and savory flavorings. Just doesn’t have the processed flours or fats. And, remember, quinoa is a great source of protein!

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion chopped (can use green or red onions)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tablesppon Smart Beat Super Light spread
  • 2 Tablespoons light seasoned rice vinegar (or a little less to taste)
  • 1/2 cup mixed tropical dried fruit (or chose dried cranberries, raisins, dried strawberries and/or dried blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice (yield 1 cup cooked)

Serves: 8 (approx. ½ cup servings)

Wash and cook quinoa according to package instructions (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water). Cook brown rice separately. In a pan saute onions with a Tablespoon of EVOO until soft (you can add the walnuts at this point for a toasty crunch). When quinoa and rice is done mix together and add a Tablespoon of the Smart Balance spread for a buttery taste. Then mix in the sauteed onions and walnuts, dried fruit, and seasoned rice vinegar. Makes about seven 1/2 cup servings. (*Optional: add I cup chopped peeled roasted sweet potato)

Nutrition (per 75g serving): Cal 220, Fat 9g, Chol 0mg, Sodium 95mg, Carb 32g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 6g, Protein 5g
*with sweet potato: Cal 240, Fat 9g, Chol 0mg, Sodium 105mg, Total Carb 37g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sugars 10g, Protein 6g.

For an easy and more nutritional version of scalloped potatoes, try roasting slices with a bit of olive oil and some rosemary or sage and perhaps a touch of sea salt. It will have healthy omega 3’s (olive oil) and flavor from herbs/spices to make it tasty without all the fat and calories.

Nutritional info per 1/2 cup serving: Cal 130, Fat 3g, Chol 0mg, Sodium 100mg, Carb 22g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 1 g, Protein 3g. While nutritional info. varies for scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin, this saves in significantly in sodium and fat.

So what about yams? The truth is yams taste great on their own, without all the sugar and marshmallows. When you roast them they produce their own sweet syrup. Enjoy them freshly roasted, alone, or add a bit nutmeg or cinnamon for a nice healthy alternative.

Finally, if you want something super easy and quick that you can make with your kiddos, try this recipe for pumpkin and spice cream cheese, which is a great alternative to cheese spreads:

Kids love to mix things together as in cookie dough or cake batter. I wanted to give “a licking the bowl experience” without the butter, sugar, salt and empty calories. This recipe can be used in a variety of ways and exact measurements are not crucial. Let your kids mix it all in and enjoy!

Pumpkin & Spice Cream Cheese

  • 8 oz lowfat cream cheese
  • 2 TBS agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon spice
  • 1/2 cup walnuts*

Makes approx 16 one-ounce servings:
Nutritional Information: Cal 60, Fat 4.5g, Chol 10mg, Sodium 65mg, Carb 4g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 3g, Protein 2g

Serving suggestions: Spread on crackers, toast (cinnamon raisin makes for a nice treat), bagels (mini bagels are good for appetitzers), waffles. Use as a dip for sliced apples. *Note: omit walnuts if there are any nut allergies. Optional: mix in 1/4 toasted flax seeds for a bit of crunch and texture instead.

A huge thank you to Lauren for sharing these recipes! All of them sound incredibly delicious! If you have a chance head over to her blog, Nutri-Saavy, for more tips and helpful hints.

Are you making healthier dishes this year? If you can share the recipe or link to the recipe in the comment section!