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Brost column: Take a healthy dish to your next holiday party

APPETIZER MEATBALLS: Frozen meatballs are usually high in sodium and fat. Look for the chili sauce that's the lowest in sodium and use a lower sugar grape jelly to decrease calories and carbohydrates. Photo Illustration1 / 4
Bonnie Brost2 / 4
When invited to bring a dish to share to that holiday gathering, consider a healthy option that looks and tastes good. Photo illustration3 / 4
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We're in the holiday season when parties challenge our commitment to healthy eating.

There are family parties, club parties, work parties and annual gathering of friends. These events are often centered on food that's loaded with calories, sugar, fat and sodium.

When you're invited to bring a dish to share, consider a healthy option that looks and tastes good. Think about dishes that feature fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains. Avoid bringing more sweets, desserts and dishes loaded with full-fat ingredients such as cheese.

Many of our friends and family members have special diet needs, such as food allergies. They may need to watch their sodium due to high blood pressure, heart failure or kidney disease. Low-sugar and low-carbohydrate options are appreciated by people with diabetes. Let's think about these needs as we gather to enjoy each other's company.

Healthy holiday substitutions

Here are some healthy potluck options along with some recipes (note the asterisk) that I've shared with my co-workers and patients.

Bring this - Instead of this:

  • Hummus and whole-grain crackers --- Cheese and sausage with low-fiber crackers
  • Fruit parfaits* --- Cookie tray
  • Homemade appetizer meatballs* --- Little sausage links in sauce
  • Homemade taco dip* --- Full-fat taco dip
  • Lightly salted nuts or trail mixes --- Candy
  • Vegetable side salad* --- Ramen noodle broccoli salad
  • Bean salsa* --- High-sodium bottled salsa
  • Lower-sodium soup or chili* --- High-sodium canned or frozen soup
  • Homemade salmon spread* --- Cheese ball or spread

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Try this healthy dessert instead of a fruit pie


  • Fruit of your choice
  • Vanilla or plain low-fat, light or fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Topping, such as granola or nuts
  • For one parfait, prepare about ¾ cup of fruit. Put ¼ cup of fruit into a bowl or cup and top with 1 tablespoon yogurt. Repeat the layers and top with 1 tablespoon of nuts or granola.

Great fruit choices are:

  • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
  • Grapes
  • Melons, peeled and cubed: Watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew melon
  • Kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • Mango, peeled and cubed
  • Orange segments
  • Pineapple chunks, fresh or canned (drained)
  • Peach slices
  • Pomegranate

Nutrition facts (estimated)

Serving size, about 1 cup; calories, 100-150; total fat, 1 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 20-30 mg; carbohydrates, 18-25 gm; fiber, 2-5 gm; protein, 3-5 gm; calcium, 60 mg.

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Frozen meatballs are usually high in sodium and fat. Look for the chili sauce that's the lowest in sodium and use a lower sugar grape jelly to decrease calories and carbohydrates.

Appetizer Meatballs

  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound 93 percent lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • ⅓ cup onion, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Canola oil

Combine all ingredients except oil and shape into 1-inch meatballs. Warm oil in an electric skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Cool meatballs by draining on paper towels. Discard oil


  • 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
  • 10-ounce jar lower-sugar grape jelly

Combine chili sauce and jelly in a medium saucepan (or electric skillet); stir well until jelly is melted. Add meatballs and simmer uncovered on low for 30 minutes to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve hot meatballs with toothpicks out of the skillet or a slow cooker or chafing dish set on low to keep warm. Makes 36 meatballs.

Nutrition facts

Servings: 18; serving size, 2 meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce; calories, 48; total fat, 3 gm; saturated fat, 0.7 gm; carbohydrate, 5 gm; protein, 6 gm; sodium, 115 mg.

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Try this low-fat taco dip, which has 100 fewer calories than the full-fat version.

Taco Dip

  • 8-ounce fat-free cream cheese or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 8-ounce fat-free sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons Newman's Mild Salsa
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Chopped onions

Mix cream cheese or yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, salsa and spices in mixing bowl until well blended. Or use a food processor. Spread onto serving platter. Top with chopped vegetables. Serve with tortilla chips such as Bearitos or Garden of Eatin, Sage Valley or Xochitl or vegetables.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, 2 tablespoons; calories, 35; total fat, 0 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 3 mg; sodium, 140 mg; carbohydrates, 4 gm; fiber, 0 gm; protein, 3 gm.

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  • 1 clove garlic (½ teaspoon)
  • ¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 cups broccoli crowns, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 3 slices lower-sodium bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk garlic, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Add broccoli, cucumber, bacon, cranberries and pepper; stir to coat with the dressing. You can cover and refrigerate for up to one day.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, 2/3 cup; calories, 75; total fat, 4 gm; saturated fat, 1 gm; cholesterol, 5 gm; sodium, 100 mg; carbohydrates, 8 gm; fiber, 2 gm; protein, 3 gm.

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This dip is a great way to add more vegetables to your snacks or meals. Choose tortilla chips made from whole-grain corn and you will have added veggies and whole grains in your menu plans.

Southwest Black Bean Dip

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 15-ounce can lower-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • Jalapeno pepper, chopped (if desired)
  • Tortilla chips or dipping vegetables

Mix lime juice, oil and cumin in a small bowl. Combine corn, cilantro, black beans, red bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; toss. Drizzle dressing over bean mixture and mix. Serve with whole-grain tortilla chips or dipping vegetables.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, ½ cup; calories, 80; total fat, 1.5 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 60 mg; carbohydrates, 13 gm; fiber, 3 gm; protein, 3 gm.

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  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3/4 cup onion or leeks, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1½ teaspoons minced garlic in jar)
  • 6 cups unsalted chicken stock (less than 150 mg sodium per cup)
  • 1½ pounds butternut squash (2-3 cups), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ cup raw wild rice, rinsed
  • 3 cups cooked fresh turkey or chicken (about 1½ pounds)
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion (or leeks), bell pepper, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in broth, squash, wild rice, thyme and cumin. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add turkey (or chicken) and corn. Return to simmer and cook until the turkey is heated through, about 30-45 minutes. Cooking for several hours will enhance the flavor. You can also cook in a slow cooker for 5-8 hours on low. Add lime, red pepper, salt and pepper just before serving.

Nutrition facts

Servings size, 1 cup; calories 155; total fat, 2.5 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 40 mg; sodium, 180 mg; carbohydrates, 16 gm; fiber, 3 gm; protein, 19 gm.

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This is a great way to add healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Use fresh or frozen salmon instead of canned fish to cut the sodium level.

Salmon Spread

  • 8 ounces of salmon, baked or poached
  • 8-ounces fat-free cream cheese or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke

Bake or poach salmon until flaky and then cool. Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until creamy. Serve with fresh vegetables or whole-grain crackers.

Nutrition facts

Serving size, 2 tablespoons; calories, 45; total fat, 2 gm; saturated fat, 0.5 gm; cholesterol, 15 mg; sodium. 130 mg; carbohydrates, 2 gm; fiber, 0 gm; protein, 5 gm.