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Dashing Through the Holidays the Healthy Way

By Annessa Chumbley, RD LDN

We have all noticed that most dishes around the holidays are either swimming in a sauce, covered in cream, or have a doughy, crunchy, or cracker topping. Sometimes as patients we end up dreading the whole holiday season just because we know it’s the toughest battle of the year. Friends may mean well, but the ever-present dessert table, along with parties featuring artery-clogging appetizers and blood sugar-spiking candies send our stress levels through the roof. Relax! Here are three dishes that will have you celebrating your health instead of dreading the celebrations.


Instead of a high-fat sauce, Butternut Chicken’s creamy sauce is made by pureeing a butternut squash. You’ll get loads of vitamin A and fiber from the bright-orange vegetable. Roasted Winter Veggies uses an easy technique, roasting, to bring out the vegetable’s natural sweetness. Just remember, in order to properly roast, everything must be in a single layer and barely touching. Finally, Sautéed Lean Greens is an easy 4-ingredient recipe that takes minutes to make on the stovetop. The nutrients and antioxidants in spinach will get your immune system geared up for winter. So bust those holiday blues! Cheers to your health, and to the health of those who are going to ask for these recipes when you create them for your holiday gathering!


Butternut Chicken


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes (about 2 cups worth)

½ cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon rubbed sage (or 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh)

½ teaspoon fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons Splenda®

salt & pepper


Method of Preparation


1.  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Heat skillet to medium-high. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add to skillet, letting chicken develop a good sear. Cook about 7 minutes then turn over, cooking on opposite side until chicken is done (juices should run clear). Remove chicken and place to rest on a clean serving plate.

2.  Re-spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Add onion and butternut squash, cooking until onion is translucent and squash is tender. Stir in chicken broth, cooking 2 minutes to let squash absorb liquid. Using a wooden spoon, scape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan from where the chicken was seared (these will add flavor).

3.  Remove squash mixture and place in blender, carefully blending until pureed. Add squash puree back to the skillet. Stir in sage, rosemary, Splenda, and salt and pepper to taste. If you need to thin sauce out a bit, add chicken broth to reach desired consistency. To serve, spoon butternut squash sauce over chicken and top with fresh sage if desired. Serve on a chilly evening and enjoy!


Yield: 4 servings


Nutritional Facts per Serving:

Calories: 200 Calories from fat: 15 Total Fat: 2g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 65mg Sodium: 90mg Total Carbohydrate: 18g Dietary Fiber: 3g Sugars: 4g Protein: 28g

Roasted Winter Veggies with Maple-Balsamic Sauce



3 fresh beets

1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes

1 fennel bulb, washed and chopped into chunks

3 parsnips, peeled and sliced into ½ inch slices on the diagonal

1 large onion, cut into chunks or quartered 

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1- 2 cloves garlic

3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 Tablespoons sugar-free maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper 


Method of Preparation

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the beets in a large piece of aluminum foil, and close the packet tightly. Put them into the oven for 1 ½ hours. Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables.

2.  In a small bowl, combine thyme, balsamic vinegar, sugar-free maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Grate in garlic cloves. Set aside. 

3.  Spray a large baking sheet or roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange vegetables in a single layer in the pan. Drizzle maple balsamic sauce over vegetables, and toss in the pan to coat all the vegetables. Bake vegetables for 1 hour, stirring once or twice. Continue to cook beets separately for remaining time.   Remove beets from oven and let cool, then peel off the outer skin (this is much easier to do after they have baked than when they are fresh). Cut beets into cubes and toss the rest of the vegetables when finished. Serve warm. 


Yield:  Makes about 16 (1/2 cup servings)

Nutritional Facts per Serving:

Calories: 50 Calories from fat: 0 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 90mg Total Carbohydrate: 13g Dietary Fiber: 3g Sugars: 4g Protein: 1g

Sautéed Lean Greens


2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium organic Gala or Pink Lady apple, chopped (do not peel)

1 (9 or 10 ounce) bag spinach

fresh ground black pepper


Method of Preparation


1.  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Heat over medium. Add the garlic and apple; cook until the apple is just soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.

2.  Increase the heat to medium and add the spinach to the skillet. Stir and cook until the spinach is wilted.   Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.


Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Facts per serving: Calories: 30 Calories from fat: 5 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 170mg Total Carbohydrate: 6g Dietary Fiber: 2g Sugars: 3g Protein: 2g