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A Heart Healthy Holiday Feast For Two

Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Food & Drink Expertise:
microwaved, sliced butternut squash

Since my husband’s heart attack three years ago, he has completely changed his eating habits. He has remained healthy, and at an excellent weight for his size. We’ve worked hard to develop a list of foods that he likes, which are good for him. We also track all the nutrition values.

It’s just the two of us for Thanksgiving today, so I wanted a meal that wasn’t going to be a ton of work, and would yet look festive and be fairly healthy.

The calories for this entire meal, dessert included, add up to an impressive 1279. Yet, this compares quite well with most big holiday meals, and is about the same as a Big Mac with supersize fries. One could easily eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, this meal, and perhaps a salad and toast later on, and be within the calories allowed for an average-sized person (2000/day). For those of us who are smaller, it’s about a whole day’s worth of calories, but I could have (should have) eaten smaller portions and still been full.

The sodium (Na) value is well below a recommended 2000 mg/day. The cholesterol is well below the 300 mg/day limit. For the Omega values, it’s mostly about the ratio. You want to have more than 1600 mg of Omega 3 a day, but you don’t want the Omega 6 to be more than five times as much as the Omega 3, on average. With Omega 3 at 2233 (a good number), the Omega 6 should be under 11165, but it’s not much over that, and the imbalance is due to the pie crust. Not unreasonably decadent for a holiday meal. With healthy choices on previous and subsequent days, this will average out without any problem.

Obviously, this is more food than we will eat at one meal. But, that’s fine! We can enjoy leftovers for another day, and pie for several days.

Although it makes a long article, I’m including the menu, the recipes, and the food values, for people who may also be looking for a moderately healthy holiday meal.


Rock Cornish game hens

Apricot-rice stuffing

Holiday Jello Mold


Butternut squash

Apple-Cranberry Pie

The recipes are listed in the order they should be prepared.

Make the day before:

Apple Cranberry Pie- 10" (8 servings)

1 double pie crust:

2 1/4 c flour

1 t salt

3/4 c. Crisco

5 T water

Mix flour, salt and Crisco with a pasty blender or fork. Mix in water with as little working of the dough as possible. Divide in two, and roll one half into bottom crust. Line 10" pie plate.


8 medium pie apples, peeled and sliced (Jonathan, MacIntosh, etc)

2 c frozen cranberries

3/4 c sugar

3/4 c Splenda

½ c. flour

5 pats Smart Balance

Mix sweeteners and flour. Layer in bottom crust: apples, cranberries, dry mixture, ending with apples. Dot with pats of Smart Balance.

Cover with top crust, cut a few vent holes. Cover edges with aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 60-70 minutes, until filling is bubbling through the holes. Cool.

Holiday Jello- 5 1/2c servings

1 3 oz pack sugar-free strawberry gelatin

6 oz diet ginger ale

½ t rum extract

1/4 c dried cranberries

1/4 c raisins

1/4 c chopped walnuts

5 chopped maraschino cherries

1/8 t nutmeg

1/8 t cinnamon

1/8 t allspice

Boil 1 c water and dissolve the gelatin, add ginger ale and extract. Pour some in the bottom of individual molds, or one single, small mold. Place in refrigerator to partially set. Add the remaining ingredients to the rest of the gelatin, stir. When the plain gelatin is firm but not set, spoon the fruity mixture over the clear part. Chill until firm. Unmold before serving.

The Day of the Dinner

2+ hours before serving time make the stuffing:

Apricot-Rice Stuffing: (about 5-6 servings)

1 15 oz can Lite apricot halves, drained, but save the juice

2 T Smart Balance oil or canola oil

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

2 small or 1 large onion

2 stalks celery

1/2 c rice

1 c salt-free chicken stock (I make my own- you can’t buy it)

1/4 c raisins

Chop the onion, peppers, and celery, and fry in the oil until soft. Add the stock and rice and simmer for about 10 minutes, till the liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked. Boil down about half of the retained apricot juice till only 2 T remain. Add the raisins. Chop all but 8 of the apricot halves and add them (saved halves are for garnish). Add the reduced juice as a binder.

Wash the two thawed hens. If you want to season the inside of the birds, use sea salt or a low-sodium salt alternative. Fill with the stuffing and pin the cavity closed with toothpicks or metal pins designed for this. Rub tops of hens with a small amount of Smart Balance spread

Place birds on roasting rack in shallow pan. Roast at 425 degrees F for one hour to 90 minutes, basting with more Smart Balance a couple of times during roasting. You may want to add a little water to the bottom of the pan. Check to see if fork tender, or if internal temperature is 185 degrees F. We cut a bird in half with kitchen shears to serve.

20 minutes before serving:

Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place face down in a glass dish with about 3/4 inch water in the bottom. Microwave on high until squash is tender but not mushy. The time will totally depend on the size and texture of the squash, but zap it for 5 minutes at a time and check. It may take about 15 minutes total. Cut into slices, and cook a bit more if needed (don’t wait till it’s mushy to cut it, or the slices won’t hold their shape. Sprinkle with a non-salt seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash.

Trim woody ends of the asparagus and steam for about 7-10 minutes (I cooked a pound, but we won’t eat it all at one meal), depending on how well done you like it.


Unmold the gelatin.

Arrange the hens on a platter with the vegetables around them


Nutrition values:

½ c Holiday Jello: cal 96, Na 17 mg, total fat 4 g, Omega 3 534 mg, Omega 6 2266 mg, cholesterol 0 mg

½ game hen, with skin, including basting: cal 356, Na 82 mg, total fat 26 g, Omega 3 420 mg, Omega 6 4713 mg, cholesterol 169 mg (subtract 50 mg if skin is removed)

1 c. serving of stuffing: cal 241, Na 86 mg, total fat 6 g, Omega 3 539 mg, Omega 6 1252 mg, cholesterol 0 mg

3 ½ inch slices of butternut squash: cal 82, Na 8 mg, total fat 0 g, Omega 3 49 mg, Omega 6 23 mg, cholesterol 0 mg

4 spears asparagus: cal 12, Na 8 mg, total fat 0 g, Omega 3 15 mg, Omega 6 39 mg, cholesterol 0 mg

1 slice pie (1/8 of pie): cal 500, Na 354 mg, total fat 22 g, Omega 3 652 mg, Omega 6 6729 mg, cholesterol 0 mg

Total for meal with portions listed above (using ingredients as indicated):

calories: 1287

Na: 555 mg

total fat: 58 g

Omega 3: 2233 mg

Omega 6: 15022 mg

cholesterol: 169 mg

And, by the way, this meal won’t break the bank, either!