Thanksgiving is here! One of my favorite things to make on Thanksgiving is winter squash.  Yet, with some guests watching their calories to support healthier weights and other guests monitoring carbohydrates because of diabetes, sometimes it gets a bit tricky when thinking about which recipes still fit.  I’m all about how food is love and part of making a guest feel welcome is making sure the food you provide on your table can be enjoyed by all.  One way to do that?  Use a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, in some of your favorite dishes.

Thanksgiving Maple Glazed Squash

Here’s a quick look at what the science says about aspartame:

  • Over 6,000 products around the world have aspartame as an ingredient to lower calories and lower carbohydrates while still providing a sweet flavor.
  • The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for aspartame in a typical adult weighing 150 pounds is 3,400 mg per day. This is equal to 97 packets of tabletop sweetener or 42 (4 ounce) cups of sugar-free gelatin, or 20 (12 ounce) carbonated diet soft drinks.
  • Despite what you might see on sensational stories about aspartame, aspartame itself does not enter the bloodstream. It is completely digested by the body into components that can be found in other foods.
  • Aspartame is made from common food components, the same ones that occur naturally in meats, grains, dairy products and ripening fruits.
  • Aspartame does not cause cancer, does not increase appetite or food intake, does not cause tooth decay and does not raise blood sugar levels.
  • Aspartame is one of the most studied ingredients in the world, first discovered in 1965 and now with more than 200 studies that support its safety.

Hopefully with reading those facts, you are more comfortable cooking with low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame.  Because here is a sweet dish to add to your Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving Maple Glazed Squash


Maple Glazed Squash
Serves 4
A sweet side dish perfect for Thanksgiving. Diabetic-friendly.
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  1. 1 large acorn squash, seeded and quartered
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. Non-stick cooking spray
  4. 1 large cooking apple, unpeeled, cored and sliced
  5. 1/4 cup raisins
  6. 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Maple Flavored Syrup
  1. 1 cup apple juice
  2. 2-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  3. 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  4. 1/4 cup Equal Spoonful (granulated)*
  5. 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash quarters cut side up in square baking dish. Add 1/2 cup water. Bake, covered, for 30-40 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, spray a medium skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat. Add apples, raisins and walnuts. Cook for 5 minutes or until apple slices are tender. Set aside.
  3. For maple syrup, combine apple juice and cornstarch in a small pan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir until thickened and bubbly (it should coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat. Stir in butter, sweetener, maple flavoring and vanilla until well blended.
  4. Add maple flavored syrup to apple mixture. Cook 2-3 more minutes or until heated through.
  5. As squash comes out of oven, place squash on serving platter and spoon apple mixture over top of squash.
  1. *May substitute 6 packets of Equal sweetener
Nutrition Information
  1. Calories: 228
  2. Fat: 8 grams
  3. Carbohydrates: 40 grams
  4. Sodium: 41 mg
Jen Haugen RD

Disclosure: As a Calorie Control Council advisor, I was compensated to write this post.  But all thoughts and writing are my own. 


Calorie Control Council

American Cancer Society

American Diabetes Association

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


I remember my first time making the Thanksgiving meal.  The meal that everyone loves to eat.  The meal that my guests skip other meals for because they know they will indulge in the every single one of the dishes.  I made all the favorites: Green Bean Casserole, Baked Squash with Brown Sugar, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Roast Turkey and even Pumpkin Pie.  Yet, I wanted a new recipe to make my own, to become my signature dish on Thanksgiving.  What was it?  Cranberry Apple Pecan Stuffing.  Grandma loved it and that’s the true measure of success. 

If you are looking for that one recipe you can possibly make your signature dish, look no further.  I have a recipe round up – Thanksgiving style - of ideas for you from my blogger friends!


Vegetarian-Cauliflower-Cornbread-Dressing-with-Mushrooms-3 Min from MJ and Hungryman’s Vegetarian Cauliflower Cornbread Dressing with Mushrooms


Lightened Up Seven Layer Bars Meal Makeover Moms Lightened Up Seven Layer Bars by the Meal Makeover Moms Slow Cooker Baked Apples Kara Lydon Slow Cooker Baked Apples by The Foodie Dietitian sweet potato pecan streusel casserole Sweet Potato Pecan Streusel Casserole by Nourished RDs


2012-11-07-Cranberry-Sauce-002-1024x769 Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce by Nutrioulicious


IMG_vintageharvestpotatoes2-682x1024 New Millennium Mashed Potatoes by Cape Fear Nutrition Holiday-Cranberry-Cake-pin Holiday Cranberry Cake by Deanna at Teaspoon Communications


Sesame Brussels Sprouts Sesame Brussels Sprouts with Dates and Toasted Walnuts


no knead honey raisin bread No Knead Honey Raisin Bread by Regan Miller Jones of Healthy Aperture Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecakes Peanut Butter Cup Mini Cheesecakes by Jen!


and last but not least…Holiday Popcorn by Karman at Nutrition Adventures!

Which one will you try?




Memories are made when food is shared.  At least that is my motto.  And there is no better way to share food than by cooking with your kids in the kitchen and then sitting down to that meal you all created!  Recently, my son asked us if we remembered eating under the table for an upside down meal.  When my kids were younger, I know I tried to create some fun meals, but I didn’t remember this one! But both of my kids did because it was fun, out of the ordinary and apparently we ended up getting out from under the table because it was hard to eat laying down on our stomachs!  Mom fail.

Raddish Logo

Enter Raddish Kids.

A brilliant company that I discovered a few months back while scrolling through my Facebook feed.  Raddish creates kits for parents or even grandparents to make memories in the kitchen with their children.  How cool is that?

What’s even cooler, is that as a subscriber (as we are) you receive a monthly, themed kit that features three recipes that are laminated  (complete with easy to follow, step-by-step pictured instructions and food facts and history) , a shopping list for those recipes, an iron-on apron patch (hey just like those other clubs!), a skill card that encourages kids to learn something new in the kitchen (like how to set the table), table talk conversation starters, and even a fun activity that’s connected to the theme.  You can also find bonus content on their website including lesson plans for extending the theme.

I’m pretty impressed.  We love how it’s so organized, comes right to our door about the middle of the month and how it allows families to create memories together.  And no more upside down, under the table meals! :)

Our first kit included a fun restaurant theme, complete with pad to take orders on, a menu board and paper money. 

Restaurante Meals at Home

Learning how to set a table was the skill – a great one to teach not only to learn how to set the table, but we used our best dishes so we could learn how to eat in a restaurant too.

 Setting the Table

And of course, the food.  We loved the Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas and they now have become a favorite on our menu! Sorry for the poor food photo, but we were making memories and couldn’t stop eating them because they were that good!!  

Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas
A quick and easy dinner the whole family can make and eat together!
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  1. 1 red pepper, diced
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  4. Salt and pepper to taste
  5. 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  6. 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  7. 2 tablespoons butter
  8. 6 large whole wheat tortillas
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Toss vegetables with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast until tender, approximately 20 minutes.
  3. Mix cheeses in a bowl.
  4. Once vegetables are finished roasting, remove from oven and set aside. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add a 1/2 tablespoon butter to pan.
  5. Set one tortilla in pan. Sprinkle with 1/6th of cheese and 1/6th of vegetables.
  6. Cook until golden brown (1-2 minutes) and fold in half. Remove to baking sheet.
  7. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake quesadillas until cheese oozes (3 minutes).
  8. Slice and serve warm with salsa and light cream. Taste and share!
Adapted from Raddish Kids
Adapted from Raddish Kids
Jen Haugen RD
 If you are looking to create fun, food memories in the kitchen, check out Raddish Kids!

And check out my dietitian friends who also had to share a favorite food memory in this month’s Recipe ReDux Link Up!

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Do you ever wish you had a personal, live-in chef to create meals while you are away at work, or running kids or errands all around town? I’ve been asked multiple times to come and cook for my clients, but my goal is always to empower my clients to cook for their families. However, there’s one way to feel like someone has been cooking for us when we step through the door: the slow cooker.

Slow cooker meals are essential in bringing families into the kitchen together after a long day apart. What makes a slow cooker meal a healthy one? Lots of vegetables, lean meats or proteins and lots of flavor. 


Tips for creating a healthier slow-cooked meal

1. Think of the slow cooker crock as a cupboard with shelves. Typically, you want the heaviest things on the bottom, right? Same with the slow cooker. You will want the densest foods — like fresh potatoes, carrots, onions, winter squash and celery — on the bottom because they take the longest time to cook. And be sure to cut these vegetables about the same size for even heating. Also, canned vegetables like tomatoes make great additions to slow cooked meals. 

2. Create extra flavor from meat by browning it first in a sauté pan on the stove top. Yes, this is an extra step, but it’s essential to creating a depth of flavor your family will enjoy. Start with thawed meat, preheat your pan to medium and brown each side for one or two minutes in a tablespoon of canola oil. Then add the meat to the slow cooker above the dense vegetables — this is your middle layer.

3. During the last hour of cooking, add tender vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, peas, corn and peppers. Adding them as your top layer during the last hour helps them retain their shape and flavor. And of course, adding them in general means extra vegetables and nutrients! Just throw in these delicate vegetables right when you get home and let them simmer while everyone gets ready for dinner.

4. What are the best raw meats to use in the slow cooker? Some meats work better than others because of their cut and leanness. Great choices from the meat department are: beef brisket, beef chuck roast (including shoulder, blade and arm roasts), beef stew meat, pork tenderloin, pork chops and pork roasts, chicken thighs, chicken breasts, chicken drumsticks and turkey breasts. And if you are going meatless, canned beans, firm tofu or textured vegetable protein make great additions to a slow cooker meal. Food safety tip: If you are using ground meat — beef, pork, chicken or turkey — cook and crumble it first before adding to the slow cooker. 

5. Go for low-sodium flavor boosters. Add dried herbs and spices for extra flavor. Use canned vegetables, like tomatoes, without added salt. And at the end, stir in fresh herbs to brighten flavors. 

Other quick tips

  • Keep the lid on it! Every time you peek, it can add 15-20 minutes to your cooking time.  
  • Start with thawed ingredients to prevent possible food-borne illness. It takes a while to cook frozen meats in the slow cooker and that can mean the temperatures are in the danger zone (between 40-140 degrees).
  • The two-hour rule. Once you have turned off the slow cooker, be sure to get the leftovers in the refrigerator in shallow containers within two hours.
  • Make a list of five to 10 slow cooker meals that your family loves and put one on the menu one night each week. If you need to — and if you have a removable crock — make up the meal the night before and stick in the refrigerator. Just pull it out in the morning and set it on low — all the prep work is done.

Rather than feel like you have to run through the drive-through on those busy nights, allow your “personal chef” to do the work. Use your slow cooker and these tips for family meals that will bring your family together in the kitchen.

I authored this post that was originally published on the Stone Soup Blog, the official blog of Food and Nutrition Magazine, on 11-11-2014.  Image from the Stone Soup blog.


 I received free samples of Libby’s new Vegetable Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby’s and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Family gathered around the table: it’s what I love most about weeknights. I tell you I’m kind of obsessive about it.  The hustle and bustle of everyone pitching in by grabbing the plates, forks and cups and setting them on our farmhouse-style, wooden table; pouring the milk into mason jar glasses; bringing the meal to the table so we can all sit down together…it’s what I classify as the perfect evening.  

And you never know how much your kids appreciate it until one of them gets sick and doesn’t feel good enough to even eat a meal at the table and is relegated to the couch.  After recovering, I hear precious words I’ve never before heard: “Mom, it’s nice to be back at the table again.”

Heart happy.

Enter cool new product for more happy.

Libby’s new Vegetable Pouches.

Libbys Vegetable Pouches

Time-saving, shelf-stable and microwaveableHeat and eat.  Getting our kids (and us)  to eat more vegetables because they are easy to keep on hand.   Need I say more when only 10% of kids get enough vegetables everyday?  Confession: My kids included.

Another reason to love the new Libby’s pouches?  You can add farm-fresh goodness to your table in less than one minute.

Not kidding.

Farm Fresh

Plus, they are rolling out in all of my family’s favorite vegetables: sliced carrots, sweet peas, cut green beans, mixed vegetables and sweet corn.

Libby’s is the first to offer ready-to-heat vegetables in environmentally-friendly pouches.  (Taking 75% less energy to produce this packaging and waste is easily compressed in the garbage and at the land fill.) 

More to love:

  • Flexible, no-sharp edges (a plus for cooking with your kids)
  • Won’t dent
  • Stands up
  • Fits nicely in kitchen cabinets, takes up less space
  • Easy-to-open, easy-to-carry (another plus for cooking with your kids)

I come from a long line of canned food pantry stackers.  You know, open the pantry door and the cans are stacked so high they come falling down if you make the wrong move.  As a Midwesterner, we have looonnng winters which is why we want to stock our pantries. But we also have the best sweet corn in the summer.  And while tearing open this package of sweet corn, the sweet smell of summer comes rolling right back.  Just in time for our prediction of measurable snow.  In three days.

Cheesy Corn Dip

This appetizer, Cheesy Corn Dip, is a Midwestern favorite, but I’ve lightened it up a bit by swapping out sour cream and using plain non-fat Greek yogurt instead and added a few more vegetables.  It captures summer sweet corn at it’s peak and combines red peppers, green chilies, onions and cheese.  And it’s perfect for right now – football watching parties, Thanksgiving gatherings and even holiday parties.   And you can make it in less than 10 minutes.

Cheesy Corn Dip


Cheesy Corn Dip
Serves 8
In 10 minutes or less, you will have a summer-flavored dish featuring sweet corn, peppers, chiles and onions. Be sure to serve it at your next football watching party, Thanksgiving gathering or your holiday party.
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Total Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
  1. I pouch Libby's Sweet Corn (1-1/2 cups)
  2. 1/4 cup minced yellow onions
  3. 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  4. 1/4 cup canned, diced green chilies
  5. 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  6. 1/2 cup light mayonnaise reduced fat made with olive oil
  7. 1-1/4 cups shredded taco flavored cheddar cheese
  1. Heat corn per package directions and drain.
  2. In medium bowl, mix corn, onions, peppers and chilies. In a separate smaller bowl, stir together yogurt and mayonnaise.
  3. Pour yogurt mixture over vegetables and mix. Add shredded cheese and stir to combine.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.
Jen Haugen RD

Cheesy Corn Dip

Note: Libby’s Vegetable Pouches are rolling out in select Walmart stores this fall, but will be available nationally in January 2015.  For more inspiration, check out my fellow dietitian bloggers below!


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