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Tis’ the season for healthy casserole dishes!

Tis’ the season for healthy casserole dishes!

Winter is upon us again and with the cold weather comes lots of holiday favorites and casseroles being baked for dinners, parties, and holiday festivities.  Casserole dishes and holiday favorites tend to be full of cheesy, creamy, delicious goodness, which is also known as endless calories in the minds of dietitians and an extra 10 pounds in the minds of many people.  I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips that will help keep casseroles healthy, but still satisfy our appetites!  There are great ways to keep casseroles healthy this holiday season while also incorporating tons of great flavors.  People often think that without the pound of butter, whole milk, pound of cheese, or heavy cream that dishes lose their flavor, and that is definitely not the case…I promise!  Keep reading for some great tips to maintain the flavor and decrease the calories in your casseroles this holiday season…you will thank me later! 😉  There are 3 major tips that I think are beneficial when making casseroles.

First, consider replacing cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and other cream soups with plain Greek yogurt, which you can flavor with garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder, etc or even add regular, low-sodium broth soups such as chicken broth or vegetable broth to flavor your dishes without the added calories.  Further, try to buy items that are fat-free, low fat, low sodium, or sodium free.  For example, green bean casserole calls for cream of mushroom soup, so replace it with Greek yogurt and vegetable stock.  Be sure to check the labels because sometimes low calorie, low fat, and low sodium items can be deceiving.  By this I mean that sometimes they have other equally bad ingredients for you, so you have to determine which products will be best.  This is why plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and other plain, non-flavored items that are less processed can be great because you can add the flavor you want to them.

Second, cut back on the dairy products if possible and yes, this includes cheese!  I know how awful that sounds because cheese is delicious, but I am not saying cut it out completely.  Rather, be cognizant of how much cheese you are putting into your casserole dishes, especially if they have other dairy products in them such as heavy cream, milk, and butter.  What I mean by this is that a veggie casserole can easily be made unhealthy and fattening by adding tons of cheese and cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and other cream soups.  Milk, heavy cream, cheese, and other dairy products can quickly add calories, making healthy veggie casseroles unhealthy.  So the best thing you can do is stick to what recipes call for.  If the recipe calls for one cup of cheese, use one cup of cheese rather than a cup and a half to add additional cheesy goodness.  I realize it is the holiday season, but I promise you that your guests will still love your casserole side dishes and will appreciate the fewer calories in their already high calorie holiday meal!

Third, stick with vegetable casseroles or vegetables rather than carbohydrate-heavy or starchy casseroles that are high in calories.  I realize that many people love potatoes and what says Thanksgiving more than turkey and mashed potatoes?!  I am not suggesting that you completely do away with your mashed potatoes, but consider doing a split in your potatoes of part potato and part cauliflower.  Also, consider having one potato casserole or mashed potato dish rather than several.  Instead, make up for the fewer starchy dishes by having several vegetable casseroles or vegetable dishes such as sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecans as a side dish rather than sweet potatoes with marshmallow fluff on top.  Some other options might be brussel sprouts with bacon, butternut squash with a butter sauce, or honey and balsamic glazed carrots.

Enjoy preparing your holiday dishes and remember that while the holidays are a fun time, it doesn’t mean you should give yourself the excuse to eat whatever you want and as much as you want!  While it might sound like a novel idea at the time, it won’t be when you gain 10 pounds, can’t button your jeans, or feel so full you want to bust!  So, make some healthier casseroles that encourage cleaner eating, but still impart great holiday flavors that you and your family enjoy!  Happy clean eating this holiday season from my table to yours!


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