Most of us will eat thousands of extra calories during the holiday season, with the average person gaining about a pound that they’re likely to never lose, according to one study. Overweight folks put on an average of five pounds or more during the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
While a few of us have the willpower to shun holiday party fare, munching on carrot sticks and drinking lime-flavored seltzer, most of us don’t want to forgo the sensory pleasures of holiday meals. Coinciding with the festive season, the American Heart Association unveiled 30 new recipes on its website, including orange glazed turkey with carrots and potatoes, which takes three minutes and 40 seconds to prepare for the oven.
Oh, and it’s $1.79 per serving, according to the Heart Association; the group recently received a grant from Walmart to create nutritious dinners with chicken, pork, and seafood, as well as vegetarian options, that will feed four people for under $15.
New York chef Marc Bynum, a volunteer for the association, gave me some of his secrets for creating dishes with less salt, sugar, and calories and — since he’s a chef — even more taste.
1. Homemade chicken stock. Get 4 pounds of chicken carcass from the butcher and place it in 2 gallons of cold water, boiling with a little pepper, minced garlic, and some carmelized onions, browned in a pan with a teaspoon of oil. “Let it simmer for several hours over medium heat,” said Bynum, and skim off the fat layer that forms on top every 30 minutes for the first two hours. You shouldn’t have to add empty calories from cornstarch to thicken the stock if you give it time to reduce down to two quarts, he added. And you shouldn’t need to add salt if you use other spices.
You can use chicken stock for many varieties of soup, to flavor steamed vegetables, or as a marinade for a roast.
2. Lighter and more zesty salad dressing.
Bynum goes heavy on citrus and lighter on the oil, mixing one part citrus juice (fresh squeezed lemon, lime, and orange) with one part olive oil, stirred with a dollop of Dijon mustard and honey to taste. A creamy ginger dressing recipe on the Heart Association website calls for ½ cup of fat-free plain Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root, and two cloves of minced garlic mixed with 1 tablespoon of reduced-sodium soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
3. Lower-calorie appetizers. Think mini-sandwiches. “I like bruschetta, which is chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil on a sliced baguette.” Make it whole wheat to add some fiber. If you have any turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving, make a mini-Reuben by cutting a single piece of rye bread into quarters and topping each quarter with a slice of turkey, roll of lettuce, and smear of cranberry sauce speared with a toothpick.
You could also try soup shooters as an appetizer. Serve pumpkin, buttnernut squash, or kabotcha squash soup in small shot glasses sprinkled with a little nutmeg and cinnamon. Drop a fresh cranberry on top. “You could put in a demitasse spoon or let your guest drink it,” said Bynum.
4. Think mixed berries for dessert. Drizzle raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries with agave nectar — to replace sugar — and top with lemon zest or a fresh vanilla bean.
5. Choose wisely when attending parties elsewhere. Think fresh vegetables and lean protein, said Bynum. “I splurge on dessert, but if you love cocktails or some other specialty, use that as a splurge.” Other common-sense tips: Avoid anything drenched in oil or sauces and pass on the bread basket if you’re not using bread as your splurge.