The holiday season is built heavily around food–heavy food. Americans generally gain a pound or more during the holidays, the result of butter-basted turkey, fat-filled mashed potatoes and sweets galore. If you want to embark on a slimmer holiday season, the first common-sense move is to cut back on sugar in your dessert recipes, using sugar substitute where possible. You can take other steps in many recipes to make the season healthier.
Swap out the fat. Holiday meals are notoriously rich in butter and cream, but much of what it’s used for can be accomplished in other ways. Low-sodium chicken broth is a great substititute for the butter you normally use to baste your turkey, as well as about half the butter in your stuffing. Skim milk thins the mashed potatoes just as well as whole milk; a little low-fat cottage cheese added to it will keep it rich. Applesauce can be a substitute for oil in cake and cookie recipes.
Cut the carbs. Heavy rolls and breads are a big part of holidays–and a big part of holiday overeating. Replace regular flour with whole wheat flour wherever possible in bread and pasta recipes. Use whole grain bread for the stuffing (and use less of it, upping the vegetable ratio in it). Don’t set out chips or bread as a pre-meal appetizer; offer a vegetable plate with low-fat dip instead.
Control the portions. How much we eat is partly a psychological issue; a huge mound of food in front of us prompts more consumption than a modest plateful. Serve at the table instead of “buffet style,” to nudge your more weak-willed guests toward moderation. Carve the ham or turkey into smaller pieces, and present it in smaller batches (and offer mostly the white meat). Leave most of the mashed potatoes in the pan, spooning some into a standard bowl for the table. Cook the stuffing in cupcake tins instead of casserole dishes so they can be offered in individualized portions.