Healthy Holiday Meals

By Jennifer Nicole Lee,
Fitness Expert & Author
Miss Bikini America 2005, Miss Muscle and Fitness

Okay, so I have no excuses this year to keep my holiday gatherings both healthy and delicious. But one of the main questions my fitness friends ask me is “How can I prepare healthy holiday meals?” My answer is SIMPLE! Most people believe the myth that you cant enjoy your food if its healthy. But this is just not true. You can easily create a lavish spread of fresh healthy vegetable casseroles, lean white meat turkey breast, moist stuffing, and fresh cranberry and other fruit sauces, and even home made baked pies for all of your loved ones and the fitness fanatics alike to enjoy!

Before I get to my super sensational all time favorite recipes (including my personal favories), here are my Top  10 Seasonal Secrets to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain:

NOTE: The average weight gain from Thanksgiving until January 2, when the month of “culinary atonement” begins, is seven pounds. So be careful!

However, if you follow my top rules here, I know you can maintain your current weight and even shed a few pounds

1.If You Are Going to Eat it, Then Make Sure You Enjoy It!:
We all have those certain dishes or items that just bring us back to childhood and make the holidays special. Go ahead, indulge! Be choosy about what you indulge in though. Don't choose the pumpkin pie just because it is lower in fat than the pecan (which it is). If you want the pecan, choose the pecan! You don't want to set yourself up for binges later. That one piece of pumpkin pie may not satisfy you, so you may have another when, really, you could have had just one piece of pecan and been completely satisfied. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holidays. Just enjoy with a sense of moderation.

“SIDE NOTE FROM JNL”-If you are going to have a “cheat” bite or “cheat” meal, don’t feel bad about it, or guilty! This will only cause you to eat more out of emotional eating. Instead, focus back on your healhty food plan, and you will feel more balanced and in control.

2.Avoid white sugar.
I don't have to you that white sugar is bad for you. You all know this much by now. When our sweet tooth strikes aim for naturally sweetened treats. Some of my all time favorite that come to mind are fresh fruit tarts, fresh cranberry sauce, fruit salad, and also baked goods made with naturally sweet bananas, such as bananu nut muffins.

3.Always Eat a healthy breakfast! My saying goes “Eat breakfast like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, and Dinner like a Pauper”. Set yourself up for success by eating a satisfying breakfast to work with your metabolism, instead of against it. Plus, later on in the day your portion control will be easier this way. 

4.Drink up to eight glasses of ice water, every day! Why iced? Because your body has to burn fat (yeah!) to heat the frigid liquid to body temperature. That takes calories. Besides, water will fill you up and helps you flush toxins. 

5.To Burn that Big Holiday Meal Faster, Aim to Work out BEFORE Your Meal!
Even if you aim at a quick 20 minute routine of weights, or 20 minutes of cardio in your target heart rate zone, you will feel both mentally and physically better once you sit down to your meal. Plust your metabolism will be charged and ready to burn those calories! Just see it as the “Yin” to your “Yang” of eating! By balacing off your meal with that short quick and easy 20  minute workout, you will be setting yourslf up for success once your enjoying your meal.

6.Graze instead of Stuffing!
Leave the stuffing for the turkey! I like to prepare my big meal early allowing everyone to enjoy the entire meal throughout the day. I wake up early, have a healhty breakfast, and then serve my Thanksgiving meal at lunch time. This way, we all can enjoy the delicious meal throughout the day, grazing again around 3 or 4, and then again around 6 or 7At my house the meal is a buffet. We graze on appetizers and watch the TV, go outside and throw the football. We spend six hours together eating a little here, a little there. That is the best way to fuel your body because it removes the highs and lows caused by too much, then too little blood sugar. And if the spread has been put up and away, and the kitchen cleaned, and you are STILL HUNGRY, then whip up a Lean Dessert Protein shake by BSN. Its quick, easy, and satisfies your hunger while keeping you align with your fitness goals.

7.If you're the chef, make sure the meal is a healthy one.

Turkey without the skin is a lean protein. Yams without marshmallows is a better version of sweet potato casserole, and  green beans still taste amazing without butter and mashed potatoes don’t really need all that gravy! So I have become my own “Queen of Concoctions” taking regular recipes, and tweeking them to be healtheir.  And there are plenty of healthy choices on the Thanksgiving menu if you look closely. 

8.Stay active:
One of the major causes of weight gain during the holidays is lack of activity. Time is spent doing holiday errands, which makes us more tired, less motivated, and not wanting to stick to our routine. Best thing to do.stick to your regular schedule! Not only will it help keep weight gain down, it will give you more energy and it will reduce your stress which are both needed to battle the long lines and parking squabbles. Better yet, if you can up your activity, even better!


Healthy Harvest Recipes by BSN Fitness Celebrity Jennifer Nicole Lee

I have taken the staple meals of the holiday and have tweaked them to make them as healthy as I could!  Enjoy!

Healhty Green Bean Casserole (My sons Jaden and Dylan love to help me prepare the beans by snapping them in half, and plus this is one of their favorite sides).

This is not the no-mess, super-easy recipe of yore, but it is low in fat and high in flavor. To go one step further, substitute 1/2 pound fresh green beans for frozen. Simply snap them  into 1-inch lengths. Then blanch the beans for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water, refresh under cold water and spread in the baking dish.

Onion topping
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Sauce & green beans
2 cups skim milk
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (3 cups)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 9-ounce package frozen green beans (2 cups)

To make onion topping: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast, stirring once, until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
3. To make sauce: Combine milk, peppercorns, bay leaf and nutmeg in a medium saucepan and heat over low until steaming. Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes and strain into a measuring cup. (Discard peppercorns and bay leaf.)
4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in sour cream, salt and pepper.
5. To assemble and bake casserole: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread green beans evenly over the bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish and pour the sauce over the top. Toss together the reserved onions and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and spread over the beans. Bake until bubbling, 15 to 25 minutes.

Stuffing with Fresh Cranberries (My personal favorite!)

4 cups whole wheat bread cubes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup cranberries, chopped
1 cup whole water chestnuts
1 cup chopped apple

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, saute the chopped celery and onion in the chicken broth until tender.

Remove from heat. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, chopped parsley, tarragon, paprika, nutmeg, chopped cranberries, water chestnuts and chopped apple. Stir in the sauted onion, celery and any remaining broth.

Spray a two-quart baking dish with nonstick spray. Spoon mixture into the dish. Cover; bake at 350 for 20 minutes; uncover. Bake 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole (My husband loves this one, as its so rish and creamy and sweet, that it tastes like a dessert!)

1 pound Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 tbsp Sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Lowfat milk

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

1/4 cup Brown sugar

2 tbsp All purpose flour

1/4 cup Pecans, chopped

1 tbsp Unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover pan and steam 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash. Combine potatoes and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt to taste. Mix well and pour into nine-inch buttered pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and spread over sweet potato mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until brown.

Low Fat Pumpkin Pie

This is as healthy as I could get it! Pumpkin is super high in Betacaroteen, so dig in and enjoy!

  • 1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 (14 ounce) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pastry shell


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the first seven ingredients; beat just until smooth. Pour into pastry shell. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F; bake 25-30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator.

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