EATING & MG

Myasthenia Gravis-Friendly Holiday Recipes & Ingredient Swaps

DECEMBER 2020 | 3 MIN READ

See some tricks and substitutions aimed at making holiday meals more myasthenia gravis-friendly.

Ah, the holidays. There’s so much to love about this time of year: the food, spending time with family, the food, giving and getting gifts and, of course, the food. Meals are a big part of many holiday traditions, but before you dive into creating your next holiday meal masterpiece, there are some things you may want to consider if you or one of your loved ones is living with myasthenia gravis (MG).

Myasthenia gravis-related jaw or throat weakness may make it harder for people with MG to chew and swallow.1 And while traditional holiday dishes are delicious, there are some tricks and ingredient swaps allowing for dishes brimming with seasonal flavor that the whole family can enjoy.

“Consistent nutrition and symptom management during the holidays requires a little planning ahead.”

Megan Stanley, MS, RD
Columbus, OH
Nutritionist

A Non-Coarse Main Course

Ham, turkey, duck, Cornish hens, fish, stew, brisket—the list of meat-based holiday main courses goes on and on. Small cooking tweaks can make these seasonal classics more tender and possibly even tastier.

  • Look for cuts of meat with less cartilage or chewy fat
  • Debone poultry, fish or ham after cooking
  • Marinate meat in a closed container in the refrigerator
  • Cook meat longer but at a slightly lower temperature
  • If you or your guest with MG prefers dark poultry meat, you may want to set aside a couple servings, as dark meat tends to be softer than white meat

For a holiday poultry twist, check out the garlic, rosemary and cranberry roast chicken recipe below.

Curb the Carbs

Sugar, carbs and fats can add up quickly in traditional holiday side dishes, but a few tweaks can help make a more balanced meal.

  • Buy lower-calorie versions of a recipe’s most common ingredients (be careful that you don’t accidentally include too much salt or artificial sweeteners when making these swaps)
  • Slightly decrease the total amount of sugar, butter, gravy or dressing called for in the recipe
  • Bake traditionally fried food, like latkes (potato pancakes), instead
  • When frying food, use oils that are considered heart-healthy and have a higher smoke point. Think peanut, soybean or canola oil
  • Let fried food drain thoroughly before serving
  • Mix finely ground cauliflower into mashed potatoes
  • Swap grated cauliflower in for grated potatoes when making latkes
  • Use spaghetti squash in place of pasta noodles
  • Use seasonings instead of gravy or sauces

For a surprising, delicious ingredient swap, give the butternut squash stuffing recipe below a try.

Dodge High-Calorie Desserts

Ok, let’s get to the really good stuff—holiday desserts. There are some great ways to make “light” versions of classic holiday cookies, pies or other baked goods that will be sure to wow your guests.

  • Replace some sugar with artificial sweeteners approved for baking like Stevia (many artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, so be careful with how much you add)
  • Cut out half of the butter and use plain Greek yogurt, egg whites, applesauce or puréed bananas or prunes instead
  • Use reduced-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese in place of half the cream cheese
  • Swap cream with equal parts of evaporated skim milk

Give myasthenia gravis-friendly baking a try with the ginger easy-bake apples recipe below.

Garlic, Rosemary and Cranberry Roast Chicken Garlic, Rosemary and Cranberry Roast Chicken Garlic, Rosemary and Cranberry Roast Chicken

COOK TIME: 60 MIN
PREP TIME: 20 MIN

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (5 to 7 lbs)
  • 1 package fresh or frozen cranberries (12 ounces)
  • 8 garlic cloves—smash 4, finely dice 4
  • 2 oranges—zest 1, juice 2
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Garlic, Rosemary and Cranberry Roast Chicken

Cranberry Glaze Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all of the following:
    • 1 cup water
    • Juice from 2 oranges or 1/2 cup of orange juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 pinch black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1 (12-ounce) package of cranberries
  2. Occasionally stir until all the ingredients are combined and the cranberries pop (about 10 minutes).
  3. Set aside for later.

Chicken Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Lay the chicken chest down onto a flat work surface or sheet pan.
  3. Remove the backbone using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Cut along both sides of the backbone.
  4. Turn the chicken over and lay it flat like an open book. Using the heal of your hand, press down on the breastbone until you hear a “pop.”
  5. In a bowl, combine the following ingredients until you form a thick paste:
    • 4 finely diced garlic cloves
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. Rub the herb paste over the entire chicken and under the skin.
  7. Take the remaining crushed garlic and evenly distribute under the skin.
  8. Lightly drizzle and brush olive oil over the entire chicken.
  9. Roast the chicken until completely cooked, about 45-55 minutes (oven cooking times may vary). Halfway through the cooking process (about 20-25 minutes in,) rotate the pan to ensure even cooking. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, take the reserved cooked cranberries and pour them over the chicken.
  10. The chicken is properly cooked when a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. Allow the chicken to cool for about 10 minutes before carving.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Butternut Squash Stuffing Butternut Squash Stuffing Butternut Squash Stuffing

COOK TIME: 65 MIN
PREP TIME: 15 MIN

Ingredients

  • ~2 butternut squash (6 cups cubed)
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (peeled and diced into 1/4 inch-sized pieces)
  • 8 ounces chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Butternut Squash Stuffing

Rice Component Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pot at medium-high heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add in the 1/2 cup of wild rice and 1 finely chopped garlic clove.
  3. Quickly “toast” rice until it is evenly coated in oil.
  4. Add in 1 bay leaf and 2 cups of low sodium vegetable broth and stir fully submerged rice until the broth reaches a boil.
  5. Lower the heat until the broth is simmering. For the next 45 minutes or so, stir rice every so often to ensure even cooking. The rice is done when the grains are chewy and the broth has been fully absorbed.
  6. Season with salt to taste.

Vegetable Component Directions

  1. In a large sauté pan, add the prepped onions, celery, carrots, squash, mushrooms, apple and the following spices:
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. Cook veggies until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork (approximately 15 minutes).
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. In a greased lasagna pan, mix together the veggies and rice.
  5. “Seal” the veggie/rice mixture by pressing down on it gently using your hand or a spoon, starting from the edge of the pan and going toward the center.
  6. Pour 1 cup of the vegetable broth on top of the mixture.
  7. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Take off the foil, increase the heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and cook until brown (approximately 5 minutes).

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ginger Easy-Bake Apples Ginger Easy-Bake Apples Ginger Easy-Bake Apples

COOK TIME: 60 MIN
PREP TIME: 10 MIN

Ingredients

  • 4-6 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup orange juice

Ginger Easy-Bake Apples

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the following and mix until it reaches a paste-like consistency:
    • Ginger
    • Cinnamon
    • Black pepper
    • Salt
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • Lemon juice and zest
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Using a sharp paring knife or an apple corer, cut out apple cores, leaving the bottom ½ inch of the apples intact.
  4. Roll each apple in the ginger spice mixture.
  5. Pour 1 cup orange juice into a greased baking pan.
  6. Place apples into the greased baking pan. Approximately 1/4 of an inch of the bottom of the apples should be in the orange juice.
  7. Drizzle the top of each apple with honey.
  8. Cover the apples with a “tent” of aluminum foil (tight around the edges with room in the middle for air to flow so the apples don’t stick to the foil).
  9. Bake apples until tender (approximately 30-45 minutes).
  10. In a chilled bowl, mix the following together until all ingredients are combined:
    • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. Place each warmed baked apple in a bowl and top with juice from the baking dish.
  12. Add 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt topping per apple and finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Yield: 4-6 servings

References

  1. Mantegazza R, et al. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003;998:413-23.

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