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Merry Makeovers: Healthy Holiday Foods

No matter what traditional treats are on your table, keep your feasting healthy with these buff buffet strategies.
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Healthy Holiday Foods: Jewish continued...

Traditional treat: Potatoes, onions, eggs, and matzo flour are formed into a batter and fried in oil to produce these crispy latkes, or potato pancakes.

Leaner eat: Use extra-virgin olive oil instead of higher-fat kinds such as corn oil, and toss out the egg yolks. When cooking with olive oil, you can't take the temperature past 350 degrees, so add a bit of canola oil because it can handle the heat. The bonus: The pancakes are even crispier, Frankel says. Yolks make dough tender, whereas the egg whites create a crispy, crunchy crust.

Traditional treat: The typical topping for latkes is sour cream -- not the healthiest choice.

Leaner eat: To up the nutritional value, Frankel makes a sauce using fresh apples and cranberries. Cooked together, they add fiber and give an antioxidant boost to the holiday menu. Another healthy substitution: sweet potatoes instead of the called-for russet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and beta-carotene. "I like to parboil my sweet potatoes in water until they are just tender. Then cool them off and grate them for the latkes," says Frankel. Use a dollop of low-fat or fat-free sour cream on top.

Traditional treat that's also a leaner eat: Some families serve arancini ("little oranges"), which is already fairly healthy, Frankel says. Chefs typically cook farro, a grain similar to barley or brown rice, until tender, then mix with egg and roll in flour. The little balls are stuffed with cheese or a spicy meat mixture and fried until crispy; the farro causes them to turn brownish orange. "I like to fry the arancini in an olive oil and canola oil mix. I get the flavor and health benefits of the olive oil with the heat tolerance of the canola oil," says Frankel.

Healthy Holiday Foods: Italian

On Dec. 24, many Italians sit down with their loved ones to a multicourse meal, the centerpiece of which is seafood (Sicilians famously serve a seven fish-dish banquet). On Christmas morning, families gather around the tree enjoying coffee, homemade biscotti, and a classic Italian bread called panettone ("big bread").

Traditional treat: Shrimp cocktail dipped in mayonnaise is obviously a recipe for too many calories and too much cholesterol, says Eldo E. Frezza, MD, chief of general surgery and director of the Bariatric Weight Loss Center at Texas Tech University Health Science Center and author of Slim the Italian Way.

Leaner eat: Lose the mayo, and wrap the shrimp in lettuce leaves instead. Flavor with a small drizzle of olive oil and lemon. Or serve the cold shrimp with cocktail sauce.

Traditional treat: Lasagna is traditionally made with cooking cream (heavy, like whipping cream) and lots of meat, topped with Parmesan cheese. It's easy to overdo the fat and calories, Frezza says.

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