RD Holiday Recipe Hacks

By Lisa Andrews Med RD LD


Contrary to popular belief, dietitians are not the food police. We really love food! We want to give our clients delicious ways to enjoy nutritious food and not see it as punishment. Holidays can be particularly tough for people on modified diets or those wanting to lose weight, but in the end- we all want our cake and to eat it, too.

This month, I’ve asked a handful of RDs for their best recipe hacks. These include creative tips to increase the nutrient quality of a dish without compromising flavor and practicing mindfulness. Lettuce face it- food must taste good for us to eat it!

Recipe hacks

Joby Neelankavil advises “using cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg to “sweeten” sweet potatoes and save the marshmallows for dessert. She also suggests her “half and half” rule by using half wheat flour plus half all-purpose flour for desserts or dinner rolls. You get a little extra fiber but will still end up with a tender or fluffy product. Same with fats—by using half butter and half oil you get the health benefits from the oil and flavor from the butter.”

Colleen Wysocki, MS, RDN & Owner of ZEST Nutrition provides some ‘sage’ advice on how to fix a burnt blunder. “One way to fix burnt gravy is to strain the gravy into a clean saucepan and add peanut butter about 1 teaspoon at a time. The peanut butter takes away the burnt taste. For those with peanut allergies, try adding a potato to the strained gravy for 20 mins. to absorb the burnt taste instead.” Peanut butter for the win!

Jinan Banna, PhD, RD and owner of Jinan Banna PhD, RD - Associate Professor of Nutrition advises “making use of fruits and vegetables in creative ways to enhance the quality of the diet. Bananas are the perfect addition to smoothies because they add sweetness and creaminess. You can combine half a banana with plant-based milk and frozen fruits of your choice to make a delicious smoothie. They also are a wonderful substitute for added sugar in baked goods, and help to moisten sweet breads.”

Mindful eating

This time of year can be difficult for people trying to manage their weight or blood sugar, but not impossible. Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LD of Craving Something Healthy... - Inspiring healthier eating one dish at a time suggests “cutting back on Christmas baking by making just a single batch of 2 different types. Everyone gets a few and it's just enough. Another holiday food tradition she’s started is having our big meal on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas day she makes a big platter with fruits, cheese, veggies, nuts etc. We pick at that all day and have leftovers for dinner. There's no cooking for me and I'm not stuck with tons of leftovers all week.”

Erin Decker, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES @ gives the following advice: ”Don't skip meals with the intention of "saving up" for the big meal. It is hard to make mindful choices when you are starving, so this approach can actually backfire. Instead, eat regular, balanced meals and snacks. Eat what you like and leave what you don't. On that note, no guilt for truly enjoying your favorite foods! Brainstorm ways to say "no" to pushy relatives. Try saying: It looks amazing, but I'm stuffed! Can I have the recipe? Can I take some home instead? I'm so full now, but maybe later!”

While the holidays can be a stressful ‘thyme’ for all of us (especially during a pandemic), we still have much to be grateful for and can modify our meals for better health. Dietitian Pros wishes you and yours a happy, healthy holiday season!