Tips for a Tasty and Healthy Thanksgiving

by:Pat Lund

Thanksgiving feasting is a time to look forward to traditional recipes and holiday eating habits. However, for many, watching dietary intake can take the fun out of the holiday season. Two ways to watch your waistline during the Thanksgiving season are with smart snacking and make-ahead treats.

Smart snacking is a way to satisfy the holiday sweet tooth without loading up on calories. A small snack before a big party will help keep you from becoming too hungry and overeat at the party.

One very common snack during the holidays is cookies. A simple rule to follow: bake now-eat later. Most holiday cookies can be baked ahead of time, decorated, and put in the freezer until needed. Thaw only the amount needed and keep around as a handy snacking option. Here is a list of handy snacking options to cut down on calories while providing choices to satisfy your cravings.

  • 1 chocolate-dipped strawberry (62 calories)
  • 3 gingersnaps (80 calories)
  • 1 small apple, sliced and drizzled with 1/2 Tbsp. fat-free caramel syrup (85 calories)
  • 2" thick slice angel food cake with 2 Tbsp. Light whipped topping (93 calories)
  • 10 baby carrots with 2TBsp fat-free ranch dressing (90 calories)
  • 2 small shortbread cookies with a cup of herbal tea/cinnamon stick (100 calories)
  • 12 roasted cashews (90 calories)
  • 1 small baked apple with 1-1/2 Tbsp. light maple syrup (97 calories)
  • 1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen) topped with 2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup (100 calories)

Snacks are fine, but tradition calls for Thanksgiving to be a time of feasting. To save cooking time, make ahead some easy-to-fix holiday treats. This allows traditional favorites to be served while giving dieting options to those invited guests who want to watch their portions. Why not try Pumpkin Tarts this Thanksgiving? These individual tarts will eliminate the need for leftovers since you bake only as many as needed, while still serving that traditional pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Tarts:

  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 6-oz. can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk
  • 1 recipe Plain Pastry for Tarts
Thoroughly combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices. Blend in eggs, milk, and evaporated milk. Pour into 8 unbaked 3 1/2 inch tart shells (have edges crimped high). Wrap and freeze for later use or bake in oven (400 degrees) 35 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Cool.

Plain Pastry for Tarts:

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons cold water
Sift together flour and salt, cut in shortening with pastry blender or blending fork till pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture. Gently toss with fork. Push to side of bowl. Sprinkle next tablespoon of water over dry part. Mix lightly; push to moistened part at side. Repeat till all of dough is moistened. Form into a ball. Divide dough into quarters, and then divide each quarter in half. Shape into balls. Flatten each ball slightly and roll 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Fit into tart pans. Crimp edges high. Makes pastry for 8, 3 1/2 inch tart shells.

If you want to serve a great dessert with low fat and fewer calories, check out our new diabetic dessert cookbooks. The desserts in these books are good enough for everyone! The recipes listed in use sugar substitutes and low-fat ingredients that make treats satisfying, safe and guilt-free for diabetics and other health-conscious dieters.

Another treat that you can try is Black and White Cheesecake Bites. These refrigerated treats are made in individual portions and can be made well ahead of time. For those watching calorie intake, serving individual portions will limit the tendency to overindulge while still satisfying that sweet tooth.

Black and White Cheesecake Bites:

  • 1 package (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees to prepare crust. In medium saucepan over very low heat, melt chocolate chips and butter, stirring until smooth. Stir in graham cracker crumbs. Remove 1/4 cup mixture for later use. Press remaining cracker mixture evenly in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in condensed milk, then egg and vanilla. Pour over prepared crust. Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup crumb mixture. Bake until set- 25 to 30 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours). Cut into 24 squares. Keep refrigerated in a paper-lined holiday tin or wrap each piece individually and refrigerate. Serve as needed.

Remember - smart snacking is the key. With all the tempting candies and treats available at this time of year, we can have something popped in our mouth without even realizing it. With healthy treats made ahead and handy, the habit of popping food in our mouths will carry less weight.