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Holiday Foods for the Cholesterol-Conscious

Watching your cholesterol level needn't take the fun out of holiday feasts.

Choose Your Appetizer

What buffet table full of appetizers isn't loaded down with cheeses? If you're headed to a wine-and-cheese party or a nibbling party, beware.

The wrap-type appetizers are among the worst, Zelman says, as far as figuring out your fat toll. "You don't know what's in the food you are going to eat." So steer clear of the wrap-type foods and go for something that's not such a mystery. Little grilled chicken skewers are probably a good bet, Zelman says. "Sushi would be great."

You can't expect a party hostess to put out reduced-fat cheese, but you can limit your portions, Moloo says, and then turn to substitutes that are as tasty. Nuts, for one. "An ounce of nuts is better than the cheese, since it's got monounsaturated fats," heart-healthier than saturated.

But calories "add up fast on nuts," Moloo warns. "A small handful is enough."

Once you're done with the nuts, try to graze the vegetable platter, if there is one, Moloo says. "Because of the fiber content, they can actually help lower cholesterol."

Never mind the saturated fat in the chips -- the dips are also loaded with fat. If you're the hostess, you can turn to low-fat dips, perhaps labeling them discretely for guests concerned about cholesterol.

If you're the guest, your best bet is to eat them sparingly -- or at least dip veggies in them, not chips.

Pick Your Meats Wisely

Eat all meat skinless, Moloo advises. And look for leaner cuts -- a filet, for instance, instead of cheaper beef cuts.

While casseroles of tuna and other meat are plentiful during the holidays -- and are often family favorites -- opt instead for a plain piece of meat if you can, says Moloo.

If turkey is a main course, breast white meat is the leaner cut, says Bethany Thayer, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and manager of Worksite Health Promotion at Henry Ford Health System, Detroit. "Instead of having the wings, have white meat," she says.

Choose the Right Fixings

What's turkey without a ladle or two of gravy, you say? "Gravy is chock full of saturated fat," Zelman says. It's on her holiday foods-to-avoid list. "Skip the gravy if you can." Or slim it down, if you're the cook, by making a turkey-broth gravy.

If you make your own stuffing, use oil instead of butter -- and less of it, Thayer says. "Look for ways to add fruits and vegetables." That will automatically make the stuffing lower in calories than adding butter -- and higher in fiber. Consider adding dried cherries, raisins, or cranberries, she says.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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