Thanksgiving will usher in the holiday season which most likely will include special family meals and treats. When planning holiday food you can create healthy meals and still enjoy yourself. Some recipes just have to have all the butter, sugar or salt, but others can likely be lightened up a bit. Many recipes will remain delicious even when you add less salt, sugar or fat.

Lighten It Up

Lightening up some family favorites is especially important if there is a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Another strategy is making sure you balance the table. Add more vegetables and fruit, and eat smaller portions of the richer items. Keep these simple tips in mind as you plan your menus over the next month.

Add more

  • Include fresh fruit and veggies for your pre-game. When folks arrive, they are usually hungry. As you are putting the finishing touches on the main event, keep it light by offering a platter of freshly cut vegetables (bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, carrots) and a plate of sliced fruit (e.g. apple or pear slices).
  • Color – Don’t serve a plate of white food. Add oranges and greens to the table with fresh salads, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, Brussels sprouts, greens, broccoli or green beans. Remember the “My Plate” strategy of filling half the plate with vegetables, and a smaller portion with starches.

And less

  • Use less butter and sugar. While some make the argument that “fat is back”, it’s still prudent to monitor the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Fat carries with it a lot of calories, so by using 3 tablespoons of butter over a whole stick, you can reduce the calories in a recipe by 70 percent! The same can go for sugar. In the sweet potato casserole recipe below, I reduced the sugar from a traditional recipe from 3/4 cup to 1/3 cup. You could even just add 1/4 cup.
  • Make mini-rolls and muffins. If you are baking up rolls, or using frozen bread dough – go small. Baking smaller rolls helps with portion control and allows guests to sample everything. I use mini muffin tins to bake cornbread with cranberries or mini banana muffins to go along with the meal.
  • Offer sparkling waters or your own flavor-infused water. The calories and sugar in sugary beverages adds up quickly. Use an infuser to infuse fruit flavors into your water (add fresh berries, lemons, oranges, mint, cucumbers into infuser), or create a sparkling drink with 2 ounces of 100% juice and 10 ounces sparkling water. Garnish with citrus.

5 from 2 votes

Sweet Potato Casserole

This has been a family favorite at our house since my children were small. My son is an adult now but still requests it. I use less sugar and marshmallows than traditional recipes, but it still has all of the fiber and beta-carotene goodness of the sweet potatoes. Sometimes a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine (fiber, vitamins, minerals) go down!
Author Rosanne Rust MS RDN,


  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows


  • Put a large pot of water on stove to boil over high heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9 by 13-inch (or 3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
  • Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • Carefully put potatoes into boiling water and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and soft. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  • Drain water and place potatoes into large stainless steel bowl and mash gently with a potato masher.
  • Add sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla extract to bowl. Using a hand mixer or an immersion blender, blend potatoes for 1-2 minutes. Add eggs, continue mixing until well combined.
  • Pour potatoes into prepared pan, spreading evenly, then bake in oven for 25 minutes.
  • Remove potatoes from oven. Turn broiler on medium high.
  • Pour miniature marshmallows evenly onto top of casserole, and place under broiler for about 1 minute (Watch carefully!) until lightly browned. Enjoy!