The holiday season is upon us, and that means party after party and get together after get together, with at least three more holiday themed evenings thrown into the mix. We all know what that means, food galore. As a foodie, I like to experiment in my kitchen. I love to try new things, and see how I can lighten them up or make them healthier. I once made brownies with oat bran in them and asked the people tasting them what they through the little white flecks were and everyone answered ground nuts. Needless to say, they were all very surprised to hear that it was really oat bran. Here are some tips to avoid going overboard during the holiday season.
If you are hosting the get together or dinner and preparing the food you can control just what goes into what you make. Use lean ground beef, or half ground chicken or turkey and half lean ground beef for the meatballs, and use a sugar substitute for the sauce. Use 2% milk and a mushroom bullion cube thickened with a little cornstarch instead of full fat condensed cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole. Desserts can be lightened up using lower fat alternatives, such as light cream cheese and sour cream for cheesecake, fat free sweetened condensed milk, and sugar substitutes. Eggnog can be made lighter using egg substitute and low-fat or skim milk and fat free half and half as well.
What to do about the abundance of finger food goodness? Most of us have the two or three things they absolutely love and must eat, be it the warm brie with cranberries and pistachios, Aunt Ida’s famous mashed potatoes, or maybe the Swedish meatballs, the green bean casserole, and the desserts, oh the desserts.
When attending an affair elsewhere, like an office holiday party or in a friend’s home, decide in advance that you are only going to eat two or three different things and even then one or two of those things, say a two stuffed mushrooms, one crab cake, and two small bites of brie, then stick with the crudités or the little fruit or vegetable skewers. There are also the obvious foods to avoid like most creamy cheese laden dips and cheese balls, anything fried, and most of the chips and crackers. Use vegetables instead of crackers for the dips you must eat, artichoke dip on celery sticks is actually quite tasty.
Drink a glass of water before you go, and watch what you drink while you are there. Decide on one drink ahead of time, be it the requisite eggnog or a glass of wine, after that drink water, seltzer, or diet beverages. The more alcohol you drink the less likely you are to pay attention to how much and what you are eating.
As for Aunt Ida’s mashed potatoes with all of their buttery creamy goodness that no one can resist, put two or three bites worth on your plate. After you eat them, and are done eating from everything else your plate, which by the way no one says you have to finish, if you still want more potatoes you can always go back and get another small spoonful. As for the rest of that food on your plate, healthier choices are white meat chicken and turkey, and don’t forget to fill half your plate with vegetables.
The Lowly Potato
Potatoes always get the bad rap as fattening and every dieter’s worst nightmare. In all of the diets I have come across I can think of maybe three that say potatoes are good, please eat them, albeit in moderation, but yes they are actually good for you. That’s not to say you should eat one at every meal, but in place of rice or pasta or another carb at a meal is fine. A medium sized baked potato, which is a little smaller than your fist, has about 160 calories, less than half a gram of fat, almost four grams of fiber, a little over four grams of protein, and it has a quarter of your daily needs for Vitamin C. What’s that? A plain baked potato has no taste? Cut it in half and spice things up with some salsa, or a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt, some chopped broccoli and two tablespoons of low-fat Cheddar cheese, or top it two teaspoons of low fat mayo and a dollop of mustard and you have potato salad for the lazy person. If you are so inclined you can scoop out the insides and mix them with the mayonnaise and mustard and put them back into the potato shells and serve them as appetizers or finger foods if you use small new potatoes. The possibilities are endless, be creative, your taste buds will thank you.
1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons sesame butter or tahini made from whole sesame seeds
juice from one lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth adding more water if necessary. Serve as dip for vegetables and whole grain crackers or as a sandwich spread.
Makes 12 one quarter of a cup servings. Nutritional information: 73 calories, 2.225 grams fat, 180mg sodium, 10.5 grams carbohydrates, 2.87 grams fiber, 1.75 grams sugar, 3.24 grams protein.
Variations and add ins: Use half a can of cooked white beans or pinto beans in place of chickpeas, serve on a plate with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of reserved chickpeas and sprinkle with paprika
For spinach artichoke humus add in 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts drained and one ½ cup cooked chopped spinach, drained.