Healthy Holiday Nibbles

broccoliBy Melinda Hill

As the holiday season approaches I often need to stop and remind myself that the focus of the holidays doesn’t center around the preparations and the details but on the fellowship with family and friends as we celebrate the spirit of the season. As we gather to give thanks for our blessings, please keep in mind those who are less fortunate, those who are pending job loss, those who have lost loved ones, those who can’t be with us and then, put the rest of life in perspective. For all the joys we cherish, there are sorrows that burden us, and if nothing else, we just need to be mindful of those around us who are struggling during this time and offer a helping hand. 
    As you plan gatherings, remember to include foods for those who are trying to avoid putting on a few extra pounds through the holidays. Again, from our friends in Extension at the University of Kentucky, Janet Tietyen has the following tips for us to use.

Christmas Tree Appetizer: Here’s a healthy treat – and your friends won’t even realize they are eating vegetables. You’ll need 1-2 heads of broccoli, a pint of cherry tomatoes, 1 head ocherry tomatoesf cauliflower and your favorite dip (maybe reduced-fat Ranch or Honey Mustard). Wash and drain all the vegetables and cut the tops of the broccoli and cauliflower into flowerettes. On a festive serving tray, arrange the broccoli in the shape of a Christmas tree. Then decorate the tree with cherry tomato “ornaments” and put a layer of cauliflower “snow” under the tree. You can even top the tree with a slice of star fruit. This broccoli tree looks great on a holiday buffet table. (Note: You could also make a Christmas “wreath” shape with the broccoli and use cherry tomatoes as “holly berries.” Place the dip in a dish in the middle of the wreath.)
 Cranberry Orange Relish

1 bag fresh cranberries

2 fresh oranges (or tangerines)

1 cranberriesto 2 cups of sugar (amount of sugar can be varied depending on your sweet tooth)

Wash and drain the cranberries and oranges. Finely chop the cranberries (by hand or with the food processor) and mix with 1 cup of sugar, then set aside. Quarter the oranges and remove the seeds, but leave the peel on. Chop the oranges, using both pulp and peel, then mix with the cranberries. Add more sugar to taste, probably another ½-1 cup. This tart and sweet cranberry relish gives fiber, vitamins and taste and color to a holiday meal. 

I use a similar recipe but add 2 apples, a can of crushed pineapple (with juice) and 2 packages of gelatin (one lemon and one cranberry-raspberry). Mix the gelatin with 2 cups of hot water to dissolve. Add the sugar to this hot solution, then add the fruits and allow to cool. It is not a “solid” salad but adds a great flavor to the holiday meal.
Holiday Breakfast

When the excitement of the morning slows down or before your guests arrive, start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Plan ahead so that this doesn’t take extra preparations, but allows you to relax with your guests with a cup of coffee and wonderful conversation. It is especially important through the holidays to eat breakfast and small regular meals with planned snacks to prevent overindulging later in the day. 

The cold weather may make hot cereals very appealing; try some oatmeal with brown sugar and a banana. Pancakes and waffles are healthier with added fruits and grains. Try adding some wheat germ, oatmeal, applesauce or mashed bananas to your batter for pancakes or waffles. Fresh sliced oranges are a colorful garnish for breakfast plates. Tomatoes, peppers and onions add zest and nutrition to egg dishes. Hot chocolate made with low fat milk is a delicious way to get your calcium. Try these ideas or some of your own to give the gift of good nutrition during the holiday season.
Five a Day

One way to help decrease calories and increase nutrition during holiday feasts is to include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Served fresh with low fat dips, raw fruits and vegetables are a colorful addition to the holiday table. Try to serve fruits and vegetables at every meal as appetizers, side dishes or a main course.  Look for cookies and cake recipes that include fruits and vegetables as ingredients, such as carrot cake, sweet potato pie, pumpkin muffins or oatmeal-raisin cookies.  Try to have at least five to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables for a healthy holiday season.
Remember to consider your New Year’s Resolution…start the new year off right by changing old eating habits and adopting healthy habits for your and your family. Make small gradual changes, and consider what changes you and your family might be willing to make. Think about eating a healthy breakfast, planning nutritiouis snacks, increasing fruits and vegetables, limiting high calorie-low nutrient foods and maybe even increasing the amount of physical activity you participate in.
Now, take another deep breath and make your list of things to do. Remember to put at the top of it, to say “I love you” and “I appreciate you” to those around you during this holiday season. From our work “family” to your family, we wish you the best of the holiday season filled with happy memories and a wonderful new year.

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