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The Tribole Plan continued...

For twice-baked potatoes, she uses nonfat milk, light butter, and light cheese (never fat-free cheese, she says). For more healthful gravy, she uses nonfat milk and skims the fat off the meat juices with a fat separator. She uses cornstarch instead of flour and butter to thicken the gravy. And for her vegetable side dish of asparagus, she drizzles some olive oil over it. "My goal is not to end up with zero fat."

But, again, knowing when to leave well enough alone is important. Certain ingredients, she says, should remain. "I don't mess with chocolate," she says. "I'd never use carob instead of chocolate."

The Hampl Strategy

Jeff Hampl, PhD, RD, an assistant professor of nutrition at Arizona State University in Mesa, cooks Christmas dinner for family and friends and knows all about substitution, too. He suggests replacing oil with an equal amount of applesauce when baking cakes. "No one can tell," promises Hampl, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association.

Spreading out the high-fat foods over the course of the dinner is another strategy. "It's a shame not to prepare [some traditional] foods," he says. "Modify the recipe as much as you can." Then just don't serve them all at once. His main course, for instance, is goose -- high in fat. A 3.5-ounce serving with skin has 305 calories and a whopping 21.9 grams of fat. But he limits the damage by using a turkey baster to remove the fat from the pan every 45 minutes.

The Ayoob Approach

For a decade, Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has flown from New York to San Francisco each year to prepare a holiday dinner for at least a dozen family members and friends. He has several techniques for preserving flavor without tipping the fat scales.

Take old favorites and give them a nutritious and interesting twist. For instance, instead of fixing sweet potatoes with butter, he slices the potatoes into three-quarter-inch thick chunks and cooks them covered in apple or pineapple juice. He starts the meal with a huge salad of vegetables. And he serves steamed (green) broccoli with red peppers, giving the meal a seasonal flair. "Combine foods for color," says Ayoob, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association, and the result is a lot of eye appeal.

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