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Celebrate the flavor of Spring with recipes from our nutrition experts

Spring is upon us and with it comes many national and religious holidays—all of which are a cause to celebrate. With help from the registered dietitians with the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, you can feast with friends and family on traditional and local fare and still be conscious of your health.

“For many of us, holidays are about sharing a meal with our loved ones,” says Ema Barbosa Brown, MPH, MPH, RD, LDN. “Here in Massachusetts, our residents come from all corners of the world and many enthusiastically serve classic dishes from their beloved motherlands with the traditional meals of the host country to create new cornucopias of flavors.”

For example, Bacalhau à Brás (Portuguese) may be served alongside Southern Style Honey Roasted Ham or Tres Leches alongside Pumpkin Pie. Borscht (Croatian/Russian) may be preferred over New England Clam Chowder and Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage) is king over other vegetable side dishes. Diri Kole Ak Pwa (Haitian rice and beans), a close relative of Moro de Habichuelas (Dominican Republic), may, like Plantain Mofongo (Puerto Rican) or Risotto (Italian), show up at the table of a multicultural gathering. For that matter, modern day Native American Frybread or Naan (Indian, Western/Central Asian flatbread) or Coldannon (Irish mashed potato mixed with greens) are all suitable accompaniments for most protein (meat/fish/bean/lentil) dishes. Cachupa (Cape Verdean corn-based meal) or Shakshouka (North Africa and Israel/Middle East) are eaten as a main meal or side dish.

“If you like the latter with cheese, you can cut back fat using low fat feta and make the former less carbohydrate heavy by reducing manioc, sweet potato, fava beans and adding more carrots and collard greens,” suggests Barbosa Brown.

Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, LDN, stresses a health-conscious holiday or other celebratory meal excludes nothing. “Have your entrée, side dishes, dessert, drinks—include all the food groups!” she says. “Just choose your foods and ingredients wisely and try combinations of dishes to achieve a flavorful feast that also nourishes the body.”

Barbosa Brown and Koroly offer the following tips for your next gathering:

  • If you are hosting a potluck, do not delegate dessert to your guests lest you end up with an overabundance of pies, cakes and sweet pastries. You provide the dessert and serve bite-sized pastries and small pies displayed in small platters alongside large platters of fruit or large fruit salads. Consider that a serving of German chocolate cake or one twelfth of an 8- to 9-inch 2-layer German chocolate cake with icing is about 400 calories as compared to less than 100 calories in 1 cup of mixed berries and melons with a dollop of low-fat whipping cream.
  • Be creative and replace a starchy side with a non-starchy vegetable dish. Choose colorful vegetables—bright oranges and reds, deep greens and purple—to draw in the eyes and entice the palate.
  • Introduce an “experimental” dish that is a healthier version of a traditional or classic dish. Let it be known that it is a modified dish and ask your guests to try it and offer their input. If it is a commonly eaten food and you score with the modified recipe, you will have the satisfaction of passing this “healthier” dish to others to replicate.

Looking for inspiration? Here are some nutritious recipes to make your Spring holidays and gatherings sweet with less sugar, and flavorful yet relatively fat-free!

Mini Mediterranean Frittatas

Developed by Karman Meyer, RDN, LDN


Servings: 5

Serving Size: 2 mini frittatas

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced into 1⁄4-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives pitted and chopped 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly coat each well of a muffin pan with olive oil. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add zucchini, mushrooms and onions. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring to ensure even cooking.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add spinach, olives and oregano. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Remove skillet from heat and allow vegetables to cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and black pepper. Add cooked vegetables and cheese to egg mixture and whisk until combined.
  3. Scoop 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg mixture into each muffin pan well. Place pan on the middle oven rack and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Eggs should reach an internal temperature of 160°F and be set with no runny liquid remaining on top.
  5. Allow to cool on cooling rack for 5 minutes before carefully removing mini frittatas, using a table knife to loosen the edges. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds when ready to eat.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 128 calories, 8g total fat, 4g carbohydrate, 9g protein

Spicy Chile Cabbage


Servings: 6

Serving Size: 2/3 cup


  • 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (may substitute with Sriracha sauce or another chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 8 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Combine lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce and sambal oelek in a small bowl.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high; swirl to coat pan.
  3. Add cabbage; cook 7 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Stir in brown sugar mixture; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in cilantro.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 57 calories, 9g carbohydrate, 1g protein, 2g fiber

Curried Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

Developed by Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN


Servings: 4

Serving Size: 2 cups

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


  • 1/2 cup quinoa, dry
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed and rinsed
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 cups arugula


  1. Add quinoa and broth to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil, garlic and shallots and sauté for a few minutes until golden brown. Add shrimp and sauté 5 to 7 minutes. Do not overcook, as shrimp will become tough and rubbery.
  3. Add tomatoes and curry, stir gently until combined. Divide arugula between salad plates and top with 1/4 cup quinoa and two large spoonfuls of curried shrimp mixture.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
262 calories, 7g total fat, 24g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g sugar, 25g protein

Jicama Salad Recipe

Developed by Rebecca Clyde, MS, RDN, CD


Servings: 6

Serving Size: 1 cup


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium-size jicama, peeled
  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley


  1. Combine the oil, lime juice, sugar, cayenne and salt in a large bowl; stir. Set aside.
  2. Chop the jicama and add to the juice mixture (this will prevent browning). Add the pepper and parsley; stir well.
  3. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Alternatively, make a day ahead and store, covered tightly, in the refrigerator.

Variation: Peel the jicama and cut into 2-inch-long thin strips. Marinate in a combination of the remaining ingredients (except the red bell pepper). Serve as an appetizer.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 100 calories, 2.5g fat, 19g total carbohydrate, 6g dietary fiber; 1g protein

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