Nutrition Column – Healthier Holiday Parties and Meals

The holidays are rapidly approaching! For many, this means spending time and sharing meals with family and friends. Unfortunately, the holidays also can be a time for overeating and unwanted weight gain. Believe it or not, the average American gains six pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Sounds discouraging, doesn’t it? However, with a little effort, you can make your holiday party foods and meals fit into a healthy eating plan.

Throwing a holiday bash? Make sure you include at least some low-fat and low-calorie choices. For example:

  • Arrange colorful raw vegetables on a platter with yogurt or cottage cheese dip.
  • Make fruit kabobs with chunks of pineapples, melon and strawberries.
  • Serve hummus with pita wedges or reduced-fat crackers.
  • Create a homemade snack mix using nuts, raisins and pretzels.
  • Offer boiled shrimp or scallops with cocktail sauce or lemon.
  • Use edible centerpieces made out of oranges, apples, grapes, tangerines and other seasonal fruits.
  • Remember that alcoholic drinks, especially alcoholic punches, tend to be high in calories. Instead, serve sparkling water with a lime twist.

Preparing a holiday meal with all the trimmings, but don’t want to overstuff your guests? Holiday dinner feasts don’t have to be laden with fat, sugar, cream, gravy and lots of butter. It’s easy to trim a little fat, sugar and calories from traditional holiday foods without sacrificing flavor. Here are some ideas

for making those favorite holiday dishes lower in fat and calories.

  • When selecting a turkey, choose a plain bird rather than a self-basting bird.
  • Remove the skin from the turkey before eating.
  • Either use a gravy cup or refrigerate the pan juices and skim the fat off the top before making gravy.
  • For dressing, use less bread cubes and more onions, celery and other vegetables. For something different, try adding cranberries or apples. Moisten the dressing with low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth.
  • When mashing potatoes, use skim milk, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese in place of whole milk and butter.
  • Steam vegetables or cook in liquids such as broth or water rather than oil. Use herbs and spices for flavor in place of margarine or butter.
  • Put orange juice concentrate and a touch of cinnamon in the center of squash instead of margarine or butter.
  • Prepare fresh green beans with chunks of potato instead of cream soup. Top with almonds rather than fried onion rings.

As you can see, with a little effort and planning, healthy eating can be a realistic goal during the holiday season. Happy holidays!