Holiday Hacks

By Kat Brown, ASU Nutrition student

The holidays are notorious for weight gain and overeating. It’s the time to throw on your sweatshirts and dig into comfort foods. However, here in Arizona, by the time you are settling into the holidays and your sweats it’s already February and time for spring training, shorts and t-shirts. Instead, this holiday dig into your classic holiday dishes with a twist to prevent packing on the holiday pounds.


(Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema)

Start with a Salad

I don’t know how your holiday goes, but at my house we cook and spend time with family all morning and by the time the food is done everyone is ravenous. Instead of sitting down and inhaling your main course, start with a salad first. You can even prepare the salad the night before so that you can have it ready and focus on cooking your main meal. Starting with a salad helps prevent you from overeating and filling up on starchy carbs and fat. The American Dietetic Association conducted a study on satiety and salad consumption. The study found that consuming a low energy-dense first course may reduce overall calorie intake for the meal by 12%. Make sure that you choose a light healthy dressing and try to skip the croutons and cheese, instead try adding roasted veggies to give you that crunch. Check out this kale and mango salad recipe.

Mashed Veggies

Swap out your normal butter loaded mashed potatoes for a mashed vegetable. Cauliflower is a great alternative and if done right your guests might not even know you’ve swapped their spuds for veggies. Root vegetables are also great for mashing including carrots, turnips, beets, and parsnips. Vegetables like squash also can be mashed for great holiday side dishes. Check out a list of other vegetables that can be mashed.

Mashed Cauliflower:

1 medium head cauliflower

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and then drain well and transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Add oil and reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and purée until smooth. (Or, mash cauliflower with a potato masher). Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Many classic dishes have hidden calories added to them. Try to simplify and cut back on the number of ingredients you add to your side dishes. Side dishes often make up a large portion of holiday meal calories and can be deceiving to the eye. When preparing your green bean casserole skip the cream of mushroom and use fresh mushrooms and nonfat milk. Top it with whole-grain breadcrumbs and place it under the broiler to crisp them up and add texture. When preparing your sweet potatoes skip the marshmallows and add spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.


The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy your favorite things. So start new traditions with a spin on classic dishes that will keep your whole family healthy!


Editor’s Note: Kat Brown is currently finishing her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at Arizona State University. In December 2015 she will also be completing a Child Nutrition Certificate that focuses on school lunch programs and policies. She completed her first bachelor’s degree in business and communication at ASU in 2009. She plans on pursuing her graduate degree in nutrition while completing her dietetic internship. She enjoys volunteering at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Phoenix VA Health Care System, and St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix.



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