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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: Latino continued...

Traditional treat: Lechón asado (roasted suckling pig) is a traditional dish for families from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela. Everyone pitches in, digging a pit in the backyard, lining it with banana leaves, placing the pig in the pit, and covering it. A fire is built and the pig is roasted -- slathered in oil, of course.

Leaner eat: Roast a pork loin in the oven by removing the skin, draining the fat, and adding broth, fruit, or bitter orange or orange juice instead of oil to keep it moist.

Traditional treat: A classic Mexican dish popular throughout Latin America, tamales are made of chopped pork and crushed peppers, highly seasoned, wrapped in cornhusks, spread with a dough made of dried corn and lard, and steamed. This recipe has many versions.

Leaner eat: Rather than using lard or shortening, make the tamales with a healthier vegetable oil, such as olive or canola. You can also save fat and calories by making them vegetarian with a Mexican cheese or Monterey Jack and adding a green chile (jalapeño or Anaheim, for example) for an extra kick.

Healthy Holiday Foods: Jewish

Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights. The holiday commemorates the 165 B.C. miracle of the oil, when a small jar that held only enough oil to keep the Jerusalem temple lights burning for one day lasted a full eight days. Jews remember this by eating foods that are fried, dipped, or made with oil, says Laura Frankel, executive chef of Wolfgang Puck's kosher café in Chicago and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons: Fresh, Flavorful Kosher Recipes for Holidays and Every Day.

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.

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