HOW TO: Make healthy holiday food choices

Dec 13 2011 - 10:55am

Portion size aside, some holiday favorites start off far worse for your waistline than others. "It's not uncommon to gain a full pound  or more  during the holiday season," says Gloria Tsang, a registered dietitian and author of the new book "Go UnDiet" (HealthCastle Media, 2011).

Some swaps to consider:

* Crab cake appetizers typically are made with mayonnaise and bread crumbs, and fried. Replace them -- and items served in puff pastries -- with shrimp cocktail.

* Candy canes are pure sugar and won't fill you up. To satisfy a sweet tooth, choose small squares of dark chocolate, which have nutritionally valuable antioxidants.

* Eggnog often is packed with calories and sugar, as are pina coladas, daiquiris and cocktails with liqueurs such as Baileys Irish Cream or Kahlua. Toast with champagne or hot chocolate made with low-fat milk.

* Spinach and artichoke dip sounds healthy but is usually fat-heavy due to mayonnaise, sour cream and cream cheese. Serve a vegetable salsa instead.

* Croissants and biscuits seem light and fluffy, but that's thanks to sugar and butter packed within their layers of dough. Go with whole-grain dinner rolls.

* Shortbread cookies are crumbly because of high fat content. Ginger snaps are generally healthier.

* Cheesecake can pack lots of fat; while recipes vary, pumpkin pie tends to be a smarter choice and also offers fiber and antioxidants. Top it with fat-free whipped cream or whipped evaporated milk.

* Gravy tends to be high in fat, calories and salt. Make or buy low-fat versions; one idea is to dilute cream of chicken soup -- look for a low-calorie, low-sodium product -- with some skim milk.

* Mashed potatoes are high in carbohydrates, but mashed cauliflower has a similar texture. Moisten it with canned chicken broth instead of butter.

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