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Weight Control

Serving Up A Healthy Holiday

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During the holiday season, many people are tempted to disregard healthy eating habits. Whether you're trying to maintain a weight loss program or follow a special diet, holiday meals and celebrations can test even the strongest willpower, nutrition experts say.

The keys to staying on track are moderation and common sense, according to Mark Glen, a registered dietician at Mayo Clinic.

"It's important to be realistic," said Glen. "Avoiding those less-than-healthy foods can lead to a deprived feeling and then you may indulge to an extreme. But it's equally important to be ever mindful of your food choices. This is true at holiday time, but it's also true throughout the rest of the year."

Head into the holiday knowing you're going to face many temptations, Glen advised; be aware of your choices and, when possible, make healthy options available, he added.

When preparing meals, small variations can make a big difference. Here are some ideas to help make your holiday meals healthier, according to Glen:

  • Reduce the amount of fat you use in holiday recipes. For example, replace whole milk with skim milk or reduce by half the amount of oil in a recipe by substituting applesauce. Use fat-free versions of sour cream or cream cheese. Your food now has less fat and calories but the same great taste and texture.

  • Practice healthy cooking techniques to capture the flavor and nutrients of your food without adding excessive amounts of salt or fat. Choose recipes that call for baking, broiling, roasting, steaming, braising, grilling, poaching or stir-frying. Saute vegetables and meat in wine, water or broth instead of butter. Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking and drain off all fat after cooking. Remove fat from soups, stews, sauces and gravies by chilling and skimming it off.

  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your holiday meals. Serve festive combinations, such as marinated green beans with red pimento; green leaf or Romaine lettuce salad with red pepper strips, broccoli and cherry tomatoes; or sauteed green and red peppers. Serve star fruit or red and green apple slices arranged in a wreath shape alongside pies or cookies.

  • Use whole-grain bread in stuffing and serve wild rice and whole-grain rolls (whole grain foods generally have less fat and fewer calories). Try recipes that feature grains and grain products.

  • Enhance the color and taste of holiday meals by adding spices and herbs, such as basil, rosemary, cilantro or parsley. For example, top your potatoes or latkes with chopped parsley, onion, garlic or chives, and add a sprig of rosemary and garlic cloves to your roasted turkey.

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