Healthy Decorations for Your Holiday Plate

The holiday season is a time of year bustling with activity and enough food to leave folks busting at the seams. Before dessert is even served, some of us consume far more calories than we do on a typical day. Recipe developers at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) have created three vegetable dishes that are quick, delicious and low in calories to fill up your plate.

The holidays are a great occasion to showcase your talent in the kitchen by serving new recipes to guests. The switch to low-energy-dense foods (those with fewer calories per bite, such as fruits and vegetables) will leave guests satisfied. In addition to asking for seconds, family and friends will also ask for your recipe.

Asian Influence

Although summertime is the peak season for asparagus, it is readily available in supermarkets throughout the year. Try cooking this sunny-season recipe for your guests during the winter months. A standard serving of asparagus (1/2 cup) contains less than 25 calories and is a good source of vitamins A and C. Asparagus also provides one-third of the recommended daily folate intake. According to the AICR Expert Report, foods containing folate probably decrease risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds give this dish, which can be served hot or cold, an Asian zest.

Sesame Asparagus - Click here for a high resolution photo
Photo Credit: Scott von Bergener - AICR

Sesame Asparagus

1 1/2 to 2 lbs. asparagus (preferably thin stalks)
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted Sesame Seeds

Prepare a large pot with 1-inch of salted water. Place the asparagus spears in the pot vertically with the tips pointing upward. Cover and cook over high heat, until the thickest part of the stalks can be pierced easily with a knife, roughly 3 minutes.

Remove the asparagus from the pot and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.

Arrange the asparagus spears on a platter and drizzle the dressing on top. Garnish with sesame seeds. May be served warm or slightly chilled in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 100 calories, 4.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 270 mg sodium.

Holiday-Themed Veggies

AICR’s Expert Report concludes that broccoli and other “non-starchy” vegetables probably decrease risk for three common cancers. Because it is only cooked briefly, this broccoli will retain its characteristic crispness and color as well as its high vitamin C content. Broccoli is also an excellent source of fiber; one medium stalk provides five grams of dietary fiber. Research shows a probable decreased risk of colorectal cancer associated with foods containing fiber and with garlic, both present in this recipe. Adding red pepper flakes give these pint-size holiday trees an unexpected kick.

Garlic Broccoli - Click here for a high resolution photo
Photo Credit: Scott von Bergener - AICR

Not-So-Boring Broccoli

1-2 heads of broccoli crowns (about 1lb.)
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Separate the broccoli florets from the stalk. In a shallow bowl filled with 2 Tbsp. of water, steam the broccoli, covered, for 1-minute. The broccoli should be bright green, but still crisp. Drain the broccoli and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium-size sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the steamed broccoli, stirring well to coat the florets. Cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Makes 10 servings, 1/2 cup each.

Per serving: 25 calories, 1.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 3 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 40 mg sodium.

A Sweet Touch

Enjoy potato latkes that boast extra flavor (and nutrients) by starting with sweet potatoes and adding pears for extra moisture, fiber and sweetness. Sweet potatoes provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals; they’re an excellent source of vitamin C and provide over 400 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene.) When baked instead of fried and combined with pears, a great source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, sweet potato latkes can be an enjoyable guilt-free dish.

Sweet Potato and Pear Latkes - Click here for a high-resolution photo
Photo Credit: Scott von Bergener - AICR

Sweet Potato and Pear Latkes

2 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sized potatoes)
2 bosc pears
1 medium onion
4 egg whites
1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs.
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
canola oil spray
fat-free sour cream (optional)
applesauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place two non-stick baking sheets in the oven.

Peel the potatoes; peel and core the pears. Grate each using a food processor. Strain any excess liquid. Grate the onion. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, bread crumbs, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir in the potatoes, pear and onion. Mix until coated.

Remove the hot baking sheets from the oven and spray thoroughly with canola spray. Spoon latke mixture onto sheets, forming 2-inch patties. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula.

Serve with low-fat sour cream and warm applesauce, if desired.

Makes 8 servings, 3 latkes each.

Per serving: 180 calories, <1 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 39 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 210 mg sodium.

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