Northside Hospital Outpatient Dietitians Elyse Sartor and Leah Galante help patients better understand how to avoid dangers that can lurk in succulent holiday meals. For example, they encourage roast turkey over deep-fried turkey.

“Meal preparation also matters,” Sartor said. “Some other positive switches include whole grain or legume flours instead of refined flour, and low-fat milk instead of heavy cream.”

Greek yogurt is a healthy substitute for sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise, added Galante. “And olive oil can replace hard fats such as bacon fat or butter. Herbs or spices and citrus juices or vinegars can be used instead of salty sauces.”

Leah Galante; photo courtesy of Northside Hospital

She explained that a heart-healthy diet has lower amounts of cholesterol because it’s mostly plants, which are cholesterol free. “Any meal, holiday or not, can be improved to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease,” Galante said. “Emphasize fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins—such as soy, beans and peas—and place proper portion sizes on every plate.”

The dietitians recommend filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit first to increase your fiber and make the holiday dinner more of a plant-based meal.

Other experts suggest a tall glass of water prior to sitting at the dinner table.

Fruits rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber, may help lower cholesterol. Apples, grapes strawberries and citrus fruits fall into this category, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But be aware that if you’re taking certain statins, grapefruit, especially in juice form, might be a citrus fruit to avoid.

Although grapefruit juice doesn’t affect all statins, it’s best to ask your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare provider if you can drink grapefruit juice while taking your medication, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other experts.

Desserts create havoc with our diets. Look online for recipes that incorporate fruits and vegetables as healthy substitutes for sugar and oil, like:

  • Applesauce in spice muffins or oatmeal cookies
  • Mashed bananas in breads and muffins, and
  • Shredded zucchini in brownies.

Roasted Cranberry, Wild Rice and Kale Salad

Courtesy of Alexander Caspero Lenz of Delish Knowledge

This tasty salad will add color and healthy nutrition to your holiday table. Makes 4 servings


  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 6 cups Tuscan kale, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice

Maple-Apple Dressing

  • 1½ tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
  • 1 Tbsp. 100% pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss cranberries with olive oil, thyme and sugar. Place in a glass baking sheet and roast until softened and slightly caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

Toss kale, chopped pecans, wild rice and roasted cranberries together. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, shallot, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the salad and massage until wilted. Serve immediately.

Recipe and photo courtesy of The Cranberry Marketing Committee and Alexander Caspero Lenz, RD, of Delish Knowledge

Judi Kanne is a public health communications consultant and contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.