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Healthy Holiday Food Swaps

What choices should you make?
What choices should you make?

The amount of weight that people gain over the holidays isn't usually much of an issue. Typically it's about one or two pounds. The problem is that most people never lose that weight. After 10 years, you've put on 10 to 15 extra pounds. Every year that goes by, things get worse.

It's the constant stream of excuses to indulge. Visiting with family, going out for special dinners and all the parties you're expected to attend. You can't eat badly at every single one and not expect some weight gain.

Instead of always trying to lose weight AFTER the holiday, a smarter strategy is to AVOID the gain in the first place. When you throw a party, try some of these healthier choices. (Any recipe mentioned in this article is available online free at www.WeCookFit.com.)

Don't put out dinner rolls before the main dish is served. It's far too easy for people to grab and eat them as an appetizer. Instead, put out snacks that are heavy on veggies with light sauces. Replace regular sour cream in recipes with fat-free sour cream or low-fat Greek yogurt. I like serving Clam Dip and Veggies. You can also choose dips that enhance the flavor of less interesting baked chips. A big hit at many of my parties is Texas Caviar or Cowboy Caviar.

Side dishes tend to be covered in fattening sauces and candied toppings. Right in the middle of the table is often a big bowl of mashed potatoes. Think about it for a minute. Any food that has to be drowned in gravy to be enjoyed, can easily be skipped. I suggest replacing traditional mashed potatoes with Mashed Garlic Cauliflower (also known as Faux Mashed Potatoes). They taste so good, no gravy is needed. Plus, a single serving has about half the calories and a quarter of the fat of regular mashed potatoes.

Candied yams are a treat, but a single cup holds over 400 calories and nearly 50 grams of sugar. Replace them with my Sweet Potato Casserole recipe and you get all the sweet taste but with 25% fewer calories and 67% less sugar. Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes or Sweet Potato and Apple Bake are also tasty and healthier alternatives you can find on my website.

Green bean casserole is another dish that's often featured prominently, but tastier options exist. Fresh Green Beans with Feta Cheese is crisp and delicious. If you like vegetables covered in sauce, you can make Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Sauce.

For the main dish, turkey and ham are typical choices. The best option is to choose the white meat from the turkey. It has less fat than the dark meat and less sodium than the ham. The biggest problem with most turkey is that it comes out dry. I suggest you cook your turkey using the spatchcock method. You can cook a 20-pound turkey in about 90 to 120 minutes and every part of it stays incredibly juicy. It'll look a little different than that Norman Rockwell painting, but the taste will amaze you.

When eggnog comes out, some people suggest swapping it with champagne. Calorie wise it's a reasonable choice, you'll save about 170 calories per glass and cut out 19 grams of fat. But I prefer sugar free hot chocolate mix in almond milk. A full cup has less than 100 calories and no sugar or fat. If you really can't imagine skipping the nog, try my recipe for fat-free Eggnog or Eggnog Protein Shake.

Dessert is the final obstacle and there's often the choice of pecan or pumpkin pie. The difference between the two is staggering. You could eat three pieces of our Pumpkin Pie recipe and still not match all the calories found in a single pecan pie slice. But if you're serving the meal, why not offer some new traditional options? We have lower calorie but delicious dishes like Orange Cheesecake with Marmalade Glaze, Strawberry Cannoli in a Bowl or Baked Stuffed Apples.

Before you indulge, consider the options. It's up to you to make better choices.

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