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We often hear people lamenting, around this time of year, how much weight they gain over the holidays.  They bemoan the feasts, the Christmas cookies, the endless parties and their limitless buffets.  Let’s face it, the holiday season is full of food; but instead of letting it break your calorie bank or throw you off the healthy bus you’ve been trying to ride, how about trying to make holiday meals and dishes as low-fat and healthy as they can be?  As with most culinary conundrums, we approach the holiday season’s food parade with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.  You want your meal to give a nod to tradition but cut fat and still be delicious, huh?   Challenge accepted!

In respect to tradition, let’s talk about mashed potatoes and green bean casseroles.  To some people, these are holiday meal staples, must-haves, if you will.  If you’ve been watching what you eat and trying to cut processed foods, eat fresh and local, etc., then both of these dishes present major challenges.  Let’s attack the green beans first, shall we?  Our first decision is to cut out the canned green beans.  They don’t taste as good, anyway, so we say opt for fresh, whenever available.  Now, onto the Cream of Mushroom Soup?  Do you have any idea how much sodium is in canned soup?  Too much.  Our answer: Avocado Cream of Mushroom Soup! Sure, it’s green, and you’re not used to that, BUT your green beans are also green–it will all blend!  When you swap the traditional Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom for this avocado recipe, you’re trading fatty, heavy cream and butter for the super-healthy fats and creaminess of avocados (and trust us–that avocado gives the soup a creaminess that is lovely!)!  Calories cut, sodium cut, fresh produce consumed!

Now, onto the mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes, while seriously delicious, are also big on the cream and butter.  Consider these options instead: adding roasted garlic for a little extra kick of flavor, and substituting low-fat milk or Greek yogurt for the cream.  You’ll still get the creaminess (promise!), but you won’t get all the fat!  Another secret weapon: cauliflower!  Who knew, right?  Steam your cauliflower, then puree it and stir it right into the mashed potatoes.  It’s delicious and adds more healthy goodness to your recipe! People will be asking what you did to the potatoes this year with a smile, not a grimace–promise!

And how about those Christmas cookies?  One simple tip: Replace fats with oils.  Did you know that two dozen cookies made with 1 cup of butter have 5 grams of fat per cookie?  It doesn’t always work to replace all of the butter with oils, but many people report having good luck when they replace half the butter.  Another option: Replace some of the fats with pureed fruits, like applesauce or pumpkin.  Sometimes when you replace butter, shortening, etc. with options like oil, the cookies will be dry, so you might consider using plain yogurt or non-fat buttermilk, as well.  You can add some fiber to your cookies with whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oats or ground flax seed.  If you’re concerned about the texture, give the whole-wheat pastry flour a try!

There are lots of small ways to reduce calories and fat during the holidays without making yourself feel deprived.  A simple internet search can turn up a plethora of new options, as well as ideas for substitutions that you can play around with.

We’ll keep whipping up all of your favorites here at Brown Bag throughout the holiday season.  We’re happy to keep our fresh salads, sandwiches and soups coming–fast!– while you navigate this busy time of year.  Cuisine on the fly is what we’re all about!