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Healthful holiday tips: Acceptable substitutions will help balance the scales out during the over-eating season

By ALETHEA PRICE

Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Everything in moderation has always been my motto when it comes to eating delicious yet unhealthy foods. Since we are now entering into the wonderful season of starchy sides and sweet treats, don’t forget to be mindful of making healthy choices.

Let’s talk about how we can make holiday meals a little healthier while keeping all the flavor.

With some planning, you can celebrate the holidays while continuing to eat a healthier diet. Remember to eat smaller portions and choose foods low in fat, refined sugar and sodium.

When you’re buying food for the holidays (or any time), take a few minutes to read food product labels.  Check the servings per container because the same products can vary considerably. Purchase those that list sugar and salt well toward the end, indicating they make up a small portion. Focus on brands with reduced fat, sugar or salt. Low sodium options of those popular “cream of” soups are available and much healthier.

Replace whole milk with one-percent or skim for beverages and food preparation. Instead of regular sour cream, use a reduced fat version, mock sour cream or plain non-fat Greek yogurt. You can sometimes substitute egg whites for the yolks. Replace the saturated fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and use unsalted butter. Butter has been found to be heart neutral, meaning it’s neither good nor bad for your heart. I guess butter is technically good for your heart and soul.

Offer guests an appetizer of raw vegetables, fresh fruits and skim-milk cheeses with whole wheat crackers or wafers. You can cover all your food groups in a MyPlate approved way with those tasty appetizer options. Serve sugar-free carbonated beverages like flavored sparkling water, club soda with a citrus slice, or tonic water. No need to drink your calories.  In place of the traditional eggnog, serve eggless nog made with low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt and skim milk. Think light and your belt won’t get tight.

For dessert, offer fresh fruits, low-fat yogurts, custards, cakes without icing and other calorie-reduced items like fruit pie. Cake without icing is kind of trendy right now so opt for the rustic icing free option. With the exception of cookies, you can reduce the sugar in any recipe by one-third without any change in food quality.

When you’re the guest, say at a big holiday dinner or buffet, eat a low-fat breakfast followed by a nutritious, filling lunch. This will help you to avoid overeating. If you’re served a plate meal, don’t feel you have to eat everything. Drink plenty of water to flush out sodium.

When you choose from the fruit and vegetable trays, limit your intake of dips on buffet tables. Take little portions of cheeses and small samples of desserts.

Consider ordering foods that have been steamed, baked, broiled or poached rather than fried items.  To avoid eating visible fat on meats, remove skin from poultry.  Limit your intake of high-fat-content foods on the salad bar, including cream dressing, grated cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, fried items, nuts or seeds and whole-milk cream sauces.

Keep these tips in mind as you go forth and celebrate time with friends and family over food. Be mindful of what you eat and your pants won’t get tight in the seat. Did you like that? See what I did there? Ha, I love a good healthy eating joke. But seriously, try to eat in moderation and stay active to keep the holiday pounds from sticking.

For more info: a.price@uky.edu