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Lighten up! Keep your feasting from being fattening


By Lisa Crockett

A special meal here and there should fit comfortably into almost everyone’s lifestyle. This time of year, though, it seems that there are special occasions several times a week. Here are some ideas for keeping holiday treats from derailing good health:

Very veggie: Roasted veggies (think Brussels sprouts with pecans) need just a few tablespoons of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Raw veggies (think spinach salad with dried cranberries and a light vinaigrette dressing) add pacing to heavy holiday favorites.

Balance your buffet:
Shoot for a two-to-one ratio of lighter items and indulgent ones. If you’re serving a potato dish loaded with cheese and cream, for example, think about two things you can serve (a raw cranberry salad and a fresh veggie platter, for instance) that will serve as a counter-balance.

Raid the spice cabinet:
Instead of relying solely on butter and cream to flavor your holiday meal, think about cinnamon, cardamom, sage and thyme. When you up the amount of spices and seasonings you use, you generally lower the amount of fat, sugar and salt necessary to make food tasty.

Re-think old favorites: Green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and mashed sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows are, admittedly, pretty tasty. Simplified versions of these favorites are even better, though, and involve a lot less time in the kitchen. Bake those sweet potatoes and dot them with a tiny amount of butter and maple syrup for an updated holiday classic. Toss the green beans with a few tablespoons of cream and Parmesan for a decadent-tasting side dish that doesn’t involve opening a can.

Think about substitutions: Can you sub in Greek yogurt for sour cream? Would part-skim mozzarella cheese work in your favorite cheese dip appetizer? Not all substitutions are satisfying (fat-free cheese, for instance, was so universally unpopular that it is virtually impossible to buy anymore), but if you can make one without feeling cheated, do it.

Whole-grains are king:
Rolls, stuffing and even pie crust come in whole-wheat versions.

Go for the gold:
Yukon gold potatoes have a perfect texture for mashing, and are naturally a buttery-yellow color. Mash them with just a splash of skim milk, salt and pepper instead of the traditional cream and butter.

Squash hunger with squash:
It’s the perfect time of year to experiment with the myriad of varieties of squash lining the supermarket aisles. Squash is low in calories but high in fiber, so adding it to your plate means you’ll be satisfied. Peel, chop and roast it in a hot oven with just a light coating of olive oil.

Don’t skip dessert: It’s a special occasion, and if dessert is an important part of the meal for you, go for it. Plan ahead, though, and make just enough for everyone to indulge once at the end of the meal.

Move it: If you’re hosting the feast this year, make sure to share leftovers with your guests. Not only is it a nice gesture, it keeps treats from lingering in the fridge for days after the holiday has ended.

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