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Holiday Eating Tips

Pimpkin Pie

By Betty Garrity MPH, RD
Internship Coordinator
UC San Diego Medical Center Dietetic Internship

As the holidays approach, parties are abundant, and with each party comes the challenge of keeping your commitment to healthful eating. Rather than focus on the “don’ts” let’s pay attention to the “do” strategies that can reduce calories and fat without sacrificing taste. Swapping out a few ingredients in your favorite holiday recipes can assist efforts at maintaining health and weight during this holiday season.


  • Using two egg whites in place of one egg can reduce the cholesterol and produce the same tasty result.
  • Use reduced sodium, fat-free chicken broth in your mashed potatoes to add flavor and moisture while cutting back on added butter, margarine and whole milk.
  • Substitute applesauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads like banana bread. Try substituting a small amount at first, as the more you substitute, the more the texture of the bread product changes.
  • For dips, use plain low-fat yogurt as the base instead of mayonnaise.
  • Sliced almonds make a delicious crunchy topping instead of fried onion rings.
  • Choose reduced fat cheeses for casseroles.

Fill your shopping cart with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits like sweet potatoes, winter squash, broccoli, green beans, apples, fresh cranberries and pears for a tasty salad, fruit crisp or turkey topping.

At your next holiday gathering, consider these tips to keep you healthy and happy in the New Year.

  • Include a healthy breakfast and/or lunch beforehand so you are not tempted to overdo by showing up starving.
  • Move your socializing away from the buffet table. This minimizes unconscious eating.
  • Satisfy your thirst with water or other non-caloric beverage before having an alcoholic drink.
  • Use a small plate to reduce quantity of food and calories consumed.

The holidays are a great time to celebrate with friends and family. With just a little preparation, you can keep off the extra holiday pounds and enjoy all that the season has to offer.

Here is a great recipe packed with disease-fighting nutrients:

Pumpkin-Praline Pie with Gingersnap Crust

  • 1 teaspoon butter or soft margarine
  • 20 gingersnaps
  • ¼ cup pecan halves (16 to 18)
  • 1 16 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup nonfat evaporated milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground dry ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


  • ¼ cup ginger chunks
  • ¼ cup pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (use only if using crystallized ginger)

Preheat oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit. Coat pie plate with butter or margarine and set aside. Place gingersnaps and pecans in food processor. Grind to medium-fine meal consistency. Pat into pie pan, pushing the crumbs halfway up the sides of the pie pan.

Beat the pumpkin, milk, eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, flour, salt, spices and vanilla using a whisk or hand beater. Pour the puree into the prepared pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and then reduce heat to 376 degree and continue baking for another 15 minutes.

Topping: meanwhile, process the candied ginger, pecans and brown sugar in the food processor or blender briefly (about 5 to 10 seconds), making sure they do not become so fin that they become a paste. When the pie is almost set, sprinkle the praline topping evenly over the pie or make a ring around the outer edge. Return the pie to the oven and cook another 10 minutes until the pie is “set” (a knife inserted in the center comes out clean).

Makes 12 slices. Each slice provides about 205 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 37 grams carbohydrate and 2 grams fiber.

Notes: Not only does ginger add a distinctive flavor to this pie, it also sooths the stomach, which might come in very handy around Thanksgiving and other holidays!

Taken from the Healthy Eating Program at Moores Cancer Center.