Have you ever shuddered at the amount of SATURATED FAT in our traditional holiday recipes? I recently compared the amount of saturated fat in a typical meat based diet versus a plant based diet, for the same amount of calories, and was shocked to learn there is four times the saturated fat in the meat based diet. When you consider that typical Thanksgiving-through-New Year’s menus have butter, milk, meat, and cheese hidden in just about every dish, the turkey becomes the leanest item on the table!
But what if you could enjoy your holiday feasts with ingredients that were not so high in saturated fats? Not with tasteless “low fat” products, but with zesty, creamy, hearty, rich plant based substitutes and check out some recipe ideas here.
As you prepare for your Thanksgiving and other holiday meals this year, I offer a few suggestions for making the meal more plant based, lighter on the saturated fat, but not on the taste, texture and variety. Part 1 will focus on using substitutes for ingredients that run through most holiday recipes, and Part 2 will offer new ways of cooking our traditional favorites–such as green bean casserole and creamed corn–as well as plant based recipes to create new traditions.
Substitutes for butter, meat, cheese, milk, and eggs
BUTTER: If you love the taste of butter and can’t imagine giving it up, keep it to use in obvious places, such as on your roll or as part of your seasoning for green beans. But it doesn’t need to be used as part of most recipes when there are alternatives with the same properties as butter. Try using the non-dairy butter substitute Earth Balance for recipe ingredients that call for butter. 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance contains 3 grams of saturated fat versus 7 grams of butter. That adds up, when you add a ½ cup to this and to that recipe. Earth Balance is available at MOMs and YES Organic markets, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and some main line stores, and can be found in the stick version for easy measuring.
HEAVY CREAM, EVAPORATED MILK and MILK. Since milk or heavy cream is also often hidden in many of our festive recipes, why not try some great non-dairy versions and omit the added saturated fat? (A cup of 2% milk has 3 grams of saturated fat and the non-dairy version has zero). Silk Soy Creamer is not only a good coffee creamer, but also good to use for heavy cream. Also canned coconut milk is rich and creamy and a great sub for heavy cream or evaporated milk (but does have saturated fat). Soy milk or almond milk can be used for any recipe calling for milk. It is very hard to that notice mashed potatoes made with almond or soy milk and non-dairy butter taste any different than with butter and milk. (Be careful not to get the ones with vanilla flavoring, though, because that is not good in mashed potatoes!)
BACON, HAM, SAUSAGE and MEAT BASED BROTH. What we love about the subtle addition of bacon, ham or sausage in some of our favorite dishes is the smoked flavor, the fat, the texture and the salt. There are ways to mimic those ingredients without the added saturated fat. Below are some of our favorites.
- Chorizo Seitan is a vegan meat product made from wheat. Upton’s Natural and Tofurkey both made a good version that mimics ground sausage, and can be found at organic markets. We love it with greens or roasted vegetables.
- Field Roast Grain Sausage is made with vegetables and spices and closely mimics pork sausage.
- Jackfruit is a trendy new protein substitute made from the largest tree fruit in the world from Southeast Asia region. It can be found at Asian markets, or Upton Natural sells a prepared version. We have been seeing it in restaurants for a pulled pork or chicken BBQ substitute.
- Chipotle chili or smoked Paprika. These two great spices are easy to find at most grocery stores. The chili is a little hotter than the paprika, but both add a wonderful smoky flavor even without a meat substitute.
- Fat. A good way to get that little extra bit of fat that we love so much is to add finely ground cashews or almonds. Nuts are high in fat, but are a better kind of fat than that from animal fat. A nice nutty addition can be made with ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 1 cup almonds and 1 teaspoon salt ground until powdery. Add in smoked paprika or chipotle chili to add some zing to your casserole where you might use bacon bits.
- Broth. Instead of buying chicken, beef or even vegetable broth (with very high salt contents), try making your own. Set aside potato or carrot peelings, kale stems, cauliflower and broccoli ends, carrot tops, cabbage outside leaves–all the parts you would normally throw away. Rinse them off, and put in a large soup pot. Cover with water and boil for about 20 minutes. Let sit while cooling, then store in mason jars for later use. You now have a salt free, FREE, perfectly good broth for gravy or soup!
EGGS. I do enjoy a scrambled or poached egg once in awhile, but with all the great egg replacement options there is no need to use them for most baked goods, especially quick breads and cakes. My favorites subs for 1 egg are:
- ½ mashed banana
- ¼ cup applesauce or other pureed fruit
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons water (let stand for a few minutes before using)
CHEESE and SOUR CREAM. My mom would always put out a vegetable and cheese tray to “tide us over” until the turkey was done. Of course this included the onion and sour cream dip! Here are some plant based options for the veggie and cheese tray:
- For the sour cream/onion dip, try a non-dairy brand. We like tofutti, available in most organic markets.
- Hummus, guacamole, salsa, are all plant based and great for chip and veggie dipping
- Hummus doesn’t always have to be made with beans! Here is a list of 15 different types, some without beans.
- My son found a fantastic nacho cheese recipe that all our meat eating friends love. Serve warm with chips (or use it for mac and “cheese” for the kids at the main meal)
- It’s hard to find a good plant based hard cheese substitute, but our favorite is made by Field Roast and there are three varieties of tofu and coconut milk based hard cheeses called Chao. It can be found at organic markets, Wegmans and Whole Food. Add it along with your regular cheese tray.
Give some of these ideas a try….and keep them as part of your diet after the holidays!