Healthy holiday tables

Indulge without the bulge

‘Tis the season for excess: too much spending, too much stress and, if you’re like most people, too much munching. Make no mistake, it’s called a holiday “feast” for a reason. The average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 230 grams of fat while enjoying a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.

While it may seem like overindulging is inevitable, remember that the centerpieces of your holiday meals are actually quite healthy. For example, turkey is low in fat, high in protein and a good source of vitamin B, with less than 200 calories per 3.5-ounce serving. Cranberries are high in vitamin C and fiber, and extra high in disease-fighting antioxidants.

And don’t forget the sides. Side dishes are commonly based on good-for-you produce, such as potatoes, green beans, corn and squash. It’s the ingredients you add that deliver a bigger calorie bite.

The secret to lightening up holiday recipes is all in the preparation, says Carolyn O’Neil, registered dietician and nutrition advisor to Best Food Facts. She recommends minimizing fat, salt and sugar and maximizing the food’s natural flavors.

Follow this additional advice from O’Neil to enjoy a healthy and happy holiday:

Turkey and table talk. The bounty of food may grab your attention, but remember the main event should be sharing time with family and friends.

Go for the good stuff first. Fill your plate with your personal holiday favorites first, and savor every bite. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat all year long.

Add farm to table flavor. Healthy holiday meals begin with simply delicious dishes with fresh seasonal ingredients. Some delicious examples of produce at its best: roasted sweet potatoes with citrus zest, steamed green beans with sauteed mushrooms, cranberries cooked in orange juice, baked apples with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt and poached pears with cinnamon.

Condiments to customize. For friends and family who have special food requirements, such as allergies or aversions, create a “condiment platter” and invite them to customize their own plates in keeping with their dietary needs.

Get more food and nutrition advice to see you through the holiday season at:

Center for Food Integrity

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