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Reducing Fat in Your Holiday Recipes

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Whatever you celebrate, the holidays are a time for feasts. Many of us dig out favorite recipes for cookies, pies, soups, and holiday meats. Delicious as they are, these recipes do not always have the healthiest ingredients. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve your holiday diet while still enjoying your favorite dishes.

Cut down on saturated and transfats

The first step toward making holiday recipes healthier is to cut down on saturated and transfats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in butter, lard, and most animal products. Transfats are found in partially hydrogenated oils.

Eating too much of these fats leads to high cholesterol and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Plus, high-fat foods are also high in calories, so reducing the fat content of a dish usually also makes it lower in calories.

Here are some recipe changes that can help cut down on fat:

If a recipe calls for… Replace it with…
Sour cream Plain low fat or nonfat yogurt, or nonfat sour cream
Cream or whole milk Reduced fat or skim milk
Whipping cream Imitation whipped cream (made with skim milk)
Cheese Low fat or nonfat cheese
Ground beef Extra lean ground beef or turkey
Bacon or sausage Canadian bacon or lean ham
Chicken or turkey with skin, duck, or goose Skinless chicken or turkey
Beef (chuck, rib, or brisket) Beef (round or loin; trimmed of excess fat)
Pork (spareribs or untrimmed loin) Pork tenderloin
Whole eggs Egg whites or egg substitutes
Chorizo sausage Turkey or tofu sausage

Replace Bad Fats with Good Fats

You can replace saturated and transfats in your recipes with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are plant based fats such as canola, safflower, and olive oil. Monosaturated fats protect against heart disease. If a recipe calls for butter or lard, try substituting it with a “good fat” oil.

More tips for making holiday recipes a little healthier:

  • When making soups and stews, prepare them ahead of time and then chill them. The fat will float to the top and harden. Remove the hardened layer of fat before reheating.
  • When making muffins or quick breads, use 3 ripe, well-mashed bananas, instead of ½ cup of butter or oil. Another option is to substitute a cup of unsweetened applesauce for a cup of butter, margarine, oil, or shortening.
  • When making pie crust, use only ½ cup of margarine for every 2 cups of flour. Use soft margarines (liquid or tub types), because they tend to have less transfats than hard or stick margarine.

CHP Health Coaching Can Help

For more information about improving your overall diet, call a CHP Health Coach. Health Coaches are specially trained healthcare professionals, such as nurses, dietitians, and respiratory therapists. They are available by phone, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at no charge to you.

To talk to a Health Coach, call 850-383-3400. You can also get information online at and scroll to login to Health Coaching.


Live Healthy for the Holidays

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

What a wonderful time of year! The weather begins to cool down; we begin to think about the holidays; maybe we anticipate vacation from work and school. And ugh…the time of year when many people get sick! You have probably heard a few good tips for keeping your defenses against flu and other germs, but you may not have thought of one of your best defenses. Something you probably do at least three times a day. Yes - what you eat!


Most of us realize that our diet impacts our long term health. But we may not know how it impacts our ability to fight off germs. The more healthy nutrients you take in the better your immune system can fight germs and keep you from getting sick. Remember, that drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly also helps keep the body’s resistance up. So go for a walk, take your water bottle along, and come home to cook a healthy recipe! (See recipe for Turkey Cranberry Soup for an idea of what to make.)

Live Healthy: Recipe

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Turkey Cranberry Soup


2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into bite-size pieces
1 rib celery, cut into thin slices
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (optional)
1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and cut in half, then into bite-size pieces
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups non-fat, reduced-sodium turkey or chicken stock, divided
1 sweet, juicy apple, peeled, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup frozen (and defrosted) cranberries or canned whole cranberries, rinsed and drained
3 cups diced cooked turkey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste*

  • In a deep pan or skillet, heat the oil over MEDIUM-HIGH heat.
  • Sauté the onion until it softens, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the carrot, celery, parsnip (if using) and sweet potato.
  • Lower heat to MEDIUM and, stirring frequently, sauté until the vegetables become lightly browned.
  • Add the bay leaf, thyme and 1 cup of stock.
  • Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes or less.
  • Stir in the apple and cranberries, if using the frozen kind.
  • If the mixture seems dry, add enough additional stock to cook the fruit.
  • Gently simmer until the apple has softened and the cranberries are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • If using canned cranberries, add them after the apple has softened, along with the turkey.
  • Heat through for a few more minutes, until the turkey is hot.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve as is or over cooked brown rice or whole-grain pasta, if desired.

Credit: Recipe courtesy American Institute for Cancer Research. This recipe meets Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nutrition standards that maintain fruits and vegetables as healthy foods.

Nutritional Information per Serving

Calories: 207 Carbohydrates: 18g
Total Fat: 5.2g Cholesterol: 53mg
Total Fat: 5.2g Dietary Fiber: 4g
% of Calories from Fat: 23% Sodium: 231mg
Protein: 22g  

Ask Dr. Nancy

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Q: What activities really help in avoiding mental decline as we age?

That’s a great question—for one reason because you assume brain power need not diminish with time. You’re right. As our cover story explains, scientists now know that brain cells and neural pathways can grow throughout life. Yes, the brain does shrink from age (particularly from about the 60s on), but many easy, everyday activities counteract the process and its mental losses.


1. Move it or lose it.

You may be surprised at the premier strategy for keeping your brain sharp: physical exercise. The scientific evidence is clear. Just walking 30–60 minutes several times a week has a big impact on the brain’s “executive functions”: planning, focusing, working memory (for example, retaining a phone number as you dial), multitasking, and making good behavior choices. More exercise increases the benefit. Lifelong exercisers show better mental functioning and less incidence of Alzheimer’s than sedentary people. However, even inactive people of 70 years and older improve cognitive performance with regular exercise. Why? Physical activity improves blood vessel health (blood flow to the brain) and releases proteins that grow neurons and their connections. The brain shrinks less.


2. Use it or lose it.

Seek out mental stimulation and training, like the coming InSight™ program for CHP seniors (see page 1). Research shows that learning something new (a language, sport, skill) or improving visual and aural acuity leads to overall improvement in brain function. Practicing a specific task (memory of names, for example) has a more limited benefit.


3. Get connected.

Social ties keep your brain livelier. In a study of 2,800 people aged 65 or older, those with at least five social ties suffered less cognitive decline than those without ties. Having connections doesn’t mean a social whirl. The ties included church and social groups, regular visits, and phone calls. Walk with a friend. Your brain gets a double boost!


4. Eat to think.

Some nutrients, such as antioxidants, appear to protect our brains—and they’re in tasty foods. Many experts recommend diets rich in colorful fruits (berries, raisins, prunes, oranges, red grapes), dark-colored vegetables (spinach, kale, eggplant), and fish with omega-e fatty acids (salmon, trout).


So . . . move, learn, socialize, eat well, and stay smart! It’s your choice. Live well.