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Christmas eats for the calorie counter


COURTESY: ANNA ROSSINOFF - Cran-Apple Salad with Cinammon Honey Dressing is a healthy holiday menu item.With the Christmas dinner right around the corner, it’s time to explore holiday snacks and meals that will satisfy the tummy without all those extra calories.

Megan Landrum, co-founder of Zest Nutrition and a registered Portland dietitian, said it’s possible to enjoy a lighter version of the classic holiday meal.

“The best piece of advice I think I can give anyone who is really worried about their calorie intake during the holidays is to eat more throughout the day, leading up the holiday meal,” Landrum said. “Don’t let yourself arrive at the dinner table starving.”

She said you need to focus on small meals, every three hours, with fruit and vegetables the basis for everything you eat. You need to include protein and fiber.

Before the Christmas meal, we think of all those cookies, crackers and lunch meats. But there’s a healthful alternative to consider.

“At a holiday party, you can never go wrong with a vegetable tray and hummus,” Landrum said, adding one of her favorite treats is candied nuts. While these nutty treats usually include butter and refined white sugar, Landrum suggests using egg whites and cinnamon to add a bit of sweetness.

For side dishes, Landrum said you should focus on whole grains and veggies. Another option for the dinner table is cranberry apple salad with a honey cinnamon dressing.

“You have lots of greens in the salad,” Landrum said. “You have fruit coming from the cranberries and apples. You have a nice homemade dressing that has no processed sugar.”

Christi Reed, lead nutritionist at New Seasons Market, agrees that eating a lower-calorie holiday meal is not an impossible goal.

Consider grass-fed meat. “If you’re comparing grass-fed meat to conventionally-raised meat, you end up having less fat (grass-fed) overall,” Reed pointed out. “That translates into lower calories.”

If you want to incorporate more veggies into your snacks, Reed said great choices include pickles or pickled asparagus, carrots or green beans.

A tasty appetizer, according to Reed, is roasted red pepper and spinach-stuffed mushrooms. “That would be a nice vegetable-based appetizer that looks kind of Christmasy with the green and the red,” she said.

For the main dish, Landrum recommends all white meat turkey or chicken breast. If it’s red meat you savor, flank steak is recommended. “That’s a really lean cut of meat. That’s usually the one that I recommend,” Landrum said, adding Christmas eats are all about moderation. “If you tell yourself you can’t have a single cookie, we all know that’s all you’re going to think about.”

Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

COURTESY: NEW SEASONS MARKET - Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms15 medium size cremini mushrooms, stems removed (save stems for filling)

1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup mushroom stems, finely chopped

1/3 cup roasted red peppers, finely chopped

5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out

1-1 1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic reduction for drizzling (optional)

To Prepare:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a skillet, over medium heat, sauté onions and mushrooms stems with olive oil for 8-10 minutes or until onions are translucent. 3. Add roasted red peppers and spinach and heat another 2-3 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in nutritional yeast. 5. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

6. Dividing evenly, fill mushroom caps with filling.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

8. Drizzle with balsamic reduction before serving if desired.

Spicy Peanut Cilantro Tofu Dip

COURTESY: ANNA ROSSINOFF - Spicy Peanut Cilantro Tofu Dip1/2 package (~8oz) silken tofu

1 cup PB2 in powder form

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro

1 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup tamari

healthy splash of sriracha (depending how spicy you want it)

To Prepare:

1. Blend ingredients in food processor or high speed blender. Done.

Sweet and Spicy Walnuts

COURTESY: MEGAN LANDRUM - Sweet and Spicy Walnuts4 cups walnut halves

2 egg whites

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons coconut sugar

4 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

To Prepare:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Coat walnuts in egg white and maple syrup.

3. Stir together remaining ingredients and toss with walnut mixture.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, option to stir halfway through.

5. All to cool completely before storing. Flavors enhance once nuts have cooled and the crunch has set in.

Wild Rice Persimmon Salad with Basil, Feta and Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

COURTESY: MEGAN LANDRUM - Wild Rice Persimmon Salad with Basil, Feta and Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

For the salad:

4 cups wild rice, cooked

2 Fuyu persimmons

1 cup basil, chopped

8 oz feta

1/2 cup Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

For the Orange Cumin Vinaigrette: (makes approximately 1 cup)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1.5 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

To Prepare:

1. Cook wild rice by brining 2 cups rice to a boil with 6 cups water on the stovetop. Reduce heat and simmer for ~40 minutes or until tender. Set aside and let cool.

2. Chop basil and persimmons. NOTE: If you would like to place persimmons on top for presentation as pictured, cut a few slices across the middle of the fruit before chopping up the rest.

3. Whisk together vinaigrette dressing ingredients.

4. Stir basil, persimmons and feta into wild rice and toss with 1/2 cup vinaigrette.

5. Add persimmon slices and some extra chopped basil to the top for presentation.

Optional: I didn’t have any on hand but pomegranate seeds would be a great addition to sprinkle on top for an added pop of color to this dish!

Cran-Apple Salad with Cinnamon Honey Dressing

(Makes two salads)

COURTESY: ANNA ROSSINOFF - Cran-Apple Salad with Cinnamon Honey Dressing

4 cups lettuce (romaine or butter) coarsely chopped

1 large apple, cored and thinly sliced

2 tbsp dried cranberries

2 tbsp feta crumbles (low fat)

1/4 cup walnuts

1 cup quinoa, cooked

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced


2 tbsp honey

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt + 1 tsp ground pepper

To Prepare:

1. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, mix all dressing ingredients and shake until well mixed.

2. In a large bowl, toss together salad ingredients. Dress just before serving.

Scott Keith is a freelance writer with the Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group. If you have a health tip, or a story idea, contact Scott at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.