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Have a Healthy and Delicious Holiday Season

Bowls of food on dining tableMost of us associate the holidays with rich food and endless eating. But you can change all that if you modify favorite recipes to cut the fat, sugar and sodium and plan lighter meals before and after holiday dinners.

If you don’t tell other family members and friends what you are doing, most will never notice!

Many holiday recipes can be altered without sacrificing taste.

  • Turkey: Instead of fixing a salty, self-basting turkey, buy a fresh turkey and cook it in a cooking bag. It will be moist and brown without all that extra fat and sodium.
  • Ham: If you normally serve cured ham, consider substituting a pork tenderloin or fresh ham. Just make sure the tenderloin is not brined with salt.
  • Stuffing: If you want dressing, make the cornbread with stone ground cornmeal and whole wheat flour. If your recipe calls for sliced bread as well, substitute whole wheat bread.
  • Casserole dishes: Cut the fat and calories in casseroles by using reduced-fat and low-sodium condensed soups, reduced-fat margarine, low-cholesterol egg substitute, reduced-fat cheese and evaporated skim milk. For a topping, use whole wheat bread crumbs or low-sodium crackers. Also use half the amount of salt or leave it out completely.
  • Sweet potato casserole: Use either substitute artificial sweetener for half the sugar, or cut the sugar by a third. Use light margarine instead of butter or regular margarine.
  • Congealed salads: Use sugar-free gelatin, fresh or canned fruit in its own juice, reduced-fat cream cheese, and reduced-fat salad dressings and mayonnaise.
  • Vegetables: Add less salt, butter and fatback to your cooked vegetables by seasoning them with a little olive oil and a few shakes from a commercial spice-herb mixture or your own favorite herbs and spices.
  • Bread: Forget those awful “burn” and serve rolls. Instead serve warm, whole-wheat rolls or bread. Accompany them with reduced-sugar fruit spread, reduced-fat margarine or a little olive oil.

Don’t go crazy with desserts. The more variety you offer, the more people will eat. Have one or two nice desserts, and people will be just as happy. Consider serving at least one lower fat, lower calorie dessert and offer a basket of seasonal fruits as an alternative.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Regular angel food cake with warm fruit compote.
  • Apple and pear crisp topped with reduced-fat frozen yogurt.
  • Baked apples filled with pecans or walnuts.
  • Pumpkin pudding or banana pudding made with sugar-free vanilla pudding.
  • Light whipped cream and reduced-fat vanilla wafers.

For beverages, offer unsweetened tea along with sweet tea, and serve coffee with fat-free half and half. Many people use less sugar and cream if you serve flavored coffees and herbal teas.

To balance out the heavier meals, have lower calorie vegetable or bean soups, bags of prepared tossed salad and fruit on hand for quick, light meals. An easy meal is a microwaved baked potato or sweet potato filled with cooked vegetables and sprinkled with reduced fat cheese. Even a bowl of cereal can be a good supper if you have eaten a lot all day.