An average adult consumes 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat over the course of a traditional holiday feast, according to the Calorie Control Council. It's hard to resist turkey or ham with all the trimmings - and for many, the holidays aren't complete without a plateful of fruitcake.
But a good meal doesn't have to be so calorie-laden.
"It's easy to add a little more nutrition to the classic staples by substituting lower-fat or lower-calorie ingredients," says dietitian Kim Galeaz. "You are in the perfect position to introduce kids to these healthier options at an early age."
To curb the calorie counts for your family this season, try these tweaks on traditional holiday fare.
Lean and green. Once you've added cream soup, butter, cheese, and fried onions, you've defeated whatever healthy intentions you had for your green-bean casserole. To lighten it up, use reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup and light butter. Then, add more vegetables than the recipe might call for - extra green beans and fresh mushrooms, for example. Or, Galeaz suggests, try an alternative approach, like sautéed fresh green beans with shallots or caramelized onions.
Doughnut Do-Over. For many families, a Chanukah without jelly doughnuts is like a menorah without candles. Unfortunately, it takes more than eight nights to burn off these sweet treats. Dietitian Jaimie Sherry recommends swapping fat-laden doughnuts for an angel-food cake. Smear each serving with a tablespoon of sugar-free jelly, a dollop of Cool Whip and two fresh strawberries, she says, "and you'll save 200 calories." (See our recipe for lighter latkes.)
Pumpkin Power. When choosing which pie to bake this year, Galeaz suggests trying pumpkin - with some healthy twists. "Canned pumpkin is so nutrient-rich, it's as healthy as fresh pumpkin," she says. "But you can make pumpkin pie even better by using low-fat condensed milk instead of full-fat. And up the spices, like cinnamon, which has natural antioxidants." To save 150 more calories, make your pie crustless.
Favorable Fruit. With all the cakes, cookies, and pies crowding the table, fruit is often overlooked at holiday meals. Good thing it's easy to add to your menu. "Kids love fruit, and a fresh fruit salad is a great way to sneak in some good-for-you food," Galeaz says. You can also add pumpkin-flavored cookies to your sweets table, or make a batch with nuts and dried fruits that will keep the kids happy - and healthy.
Trimmer 'Taters. "When I think of the holidays, the first thing that comes to mind is mashed potatoes," Galeaz says. "It's a nutrient-rich food that we tend to turn into a high-fat dish with butter, whole milk, and even cheese." You can make mashed potatoes healthier - but just as yummy - by smashing them in fat-free milk and light butter, and leaving the skin on for added nutrients and fiber. Or simply serve baked potatoes with light butter and low-fat sour cream (hold the bacon bits).
Not-so-stuffing stuffing. They call it stuffing for a reason. Most varieties will stick to your ribs - and never let go. To scale back the fat, switch from white bread to whole-grain bread; substitute broth for butter, increasing by half the amount of butter your recipe calls for; and keep the kids satisfied by packing it with good stuff you know they love, like pecans, cashews, apples, or raisins. "They all add great nutrition and taste great, too," Galeaz says.
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