ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -  The holiday season is about family traditions and making memories that last a lifetime.  Many of these traditions are food focused such as baking parties, making gingerbread houses with frosting and candies, or making a favorite entrée or side dish loaded with calories and fat.  And although traditions are meant to be passed along from generation to generation, they are not always good for the waistline or heart.  But by making simple changes to your recipes, you and your family can enjoy them without the guilt for years, and generations to come.

Here are a few tips from the American Heart Association so you may create new, heart healthy traditions with your family.

Change it up!

You don’t have to give up the treats you love during the holidays.  By making a few small changes, you can save on calories and still have all of the flavor.

  • Eggnog – Fill your glass with half – to three-quarter-parts of low-fat or skim milk and one-part eggnog.  You’ll get the flavor without all the additional calories.
  • Desserts - Cut the fluff- pass on that big dollop of whipped cream to avoid the extra sugar and saturated fat.
  • Hot Chocolate – If you order hot chocolate at a restaurant or coffee shop, ask that it be made with low-fat or skim milk and without the whipped cream.  Look for at home packets marked “low-fat/fat-free” or “low-sugar/sugar-free.”  Be sure to add the mix to low-fat milk, skim milk or hot water.

When baking cookies, cakes and other treats, try these substitutions:

  • Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute. Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.

Try This!

This delicious heart healthy snack only takes a few minutes to prepare and is more fun when you get the kids involved.  Have the kids measure everything, seal the bag, and shake it. Go one step further and have them fill snack-size resealable plastic bags with single portions to have on hand so they can grab a quick, low-fat snack.

Sweet and Crunchy Snack Mix


2 cups crunchy, high-protein cereal

1/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup slivered almonds, dry-roasted

1 to 2 tsp. grated orange zest

Directions: In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the ingredients. Seal the bag tightly. Shake until well blended.

Serving size 1/2 cup trail mix

Nutritional Info

Nutritional Analysis

Per serving Calories Per Serving 140

Total Fat 5.5 g

Saturated Fat 0.5 g

Trans Fat 0.0 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g

Monounsaturated Fat 3.5 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Sodium 73 mg

Carbohydrates 19 g

Fiber 4 g

Sugars 9 g

Protein5 g

Dietary Exchanges- 1 1/2 starch, 1 fat

This recipe is reprinted with permission from American Heart Association Healthy Family Meals, Copyright © 2009 by the American Heart Association. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc. Available from booksellers everywhere.