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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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WebMD the Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Happy holidays! Wherever you come from or wherever you're going home to this season, here's how to serve up fare that is both festive and light. Whether your table offerings lean toward Norman Rockwell-worthy all-American, Latino, Jewish, Italian, or German traditions, the time-honored dishes you love can be made with less fat and fewer calories -- without sacrificing taste.

Healthy Holiday Foods: American

Inspired by the foods ladled up by the Pilgrims, the traditional American meal has come to mean eggnog, hot apple cider, and gingerbread cookies on Dec. 24. Christmas Day is usually spent with relatives over a big meal centered around an oven-roasted turkey, honey-baked ham, or other impressive cut of meat -- accompanied by all the fixins.

Traditional treat: What's a holiday office cocktail party without savory finger foods, creamy dips, and fried canapés?

Leaner eat: Bypass the chips and other fried pound-packers and help yourself to a small handful of nuts, reduced-fat cheese and fresh fruit, or chilled shrimp, says Arthur Agatston, MD, author of The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook: Healthy Recipes for Entertaining Family and Friends. Or serve a hummus dip with a holiday-themed veggie platter: red or green pepper, zucchini, and jicama strips.

Traditional treat: Dark turkey meat covered in gravy -- because nobody, but nobody, wants to eat the breast meat (not till the next day, that is, when everyone wants white-meat turkey sandwiches, slathered with mayo).

Leaner eat: Choose lower-fat white meat without the skin and enjoy it with just a drizzle of gravy made with defatted pan juices, dry white wine, and low-sodium chicken broth, Agatston tells WebMD.

Traditional treat: A "must" at most Americans' holiday table is a big mound of mashed potatoes drowning in butter and salt.

Leaner eat: Enjoy vitamin-rich mashed sweet potatoes or baked sweet potato rounds or fries. Spritz the strips with cooking spray, add a dash of cinnamon, and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

Traditional treat: Corn bread stuffing cooked inside a turkey is a mainstay of the meal for many and usually loaded with a variety of meats, nuts, and veggies, with plenty of butter, of course.

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