Monday, December 15, 2008

Savor the Taste of the Holidays

(ARA) - We’ve all seen the statistics revealing that many of us are guilty of overindulging during the holiday season. Stress, frequent holiday parties and the office candy dish are all common culprits that can contribute to adding a few extra pounds by the end of the year.

But with a few simple, convenient and healthy modifications to holiday fare, you can still savor the wonderful flavors of the holidays without missing out on some of your favorite dishes for fear of overindulging. Remember, ‘tis the season to enjoy, not deprive!

A common cooking myth is that using light- or no-salt-added ingredients means losing the rich, comforting flavors often associated with traditional holiday meals. With a few easy tricks to help lower sodium, cut cholesterol and reduce saturated fats in holiday recipes, you and your family can look forward to delicious holiday meals as well as a healthy and happy start to the New Year.

Here are some quick and convenient tips for a more enjoyable and healthier holiday celebration:

It Pays to be Prepared
A simple trip to the grocery store can often turn into a stressful and costly venture. Poor planning and last minute grocery store trips also often result in unhealthy decisions. So avoid those long lines at the supermarket and stock your shelves ahead of time with healthy pantry staples such as canned products, olive oil, low-sodium dried herbs and seasonings and garlic cloves. A perfectly stocked pantry will allow you to have healthy options on-hand even during the chaotic holiday season.

Contrary to popular belief, canned vegetables contain all the nutrients of fresh vegetables when prepared in recipes. For example, Del Monte 50% Less Salt Vegetables contain vitamins and minerals, and 200 milligrams of sodium less per serving than regular canned vegetables. Stocking up on lower sodium varieties is a smart, convenient option for full-flavor cooking while reducing overall sodium intake in dishes -- and your finicky relatives will be none the wiser.

“Modifying ingredient choices in your diet such as swapping healthy fats for unhealthy trans and saturated fats and opting for foods with less salt can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and ultimately help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease,” says Keri Glassman, a registered dietician. “It's a small step that goes a long way. Incorporating more vegetables and less salt into your holiday diet can lead to a happier, healthier year ahead for your family.”

Say Bye-Bye to the “Bs” in Holiday Hors d’oeuvres
Avoid bacons, heavy breads and buttery dough ingredients when planning your hors d’oeuvre selections. Yes, this means passing on the traditional bacon-wrapped scallop bites and cocktail wieners blanketed in buttery dough. Instead, focus on healthier, less-filling items such as baked tortilla chips and a fresh homemade salsa. Or, opt for a colorful and festive spread of fruits and vegetables served alongside healthy dips -- such as hummus -- which won’t leave your guests feeling overstuffed and lethargic before the real meal actually begins.

Banish the Butter, Love Your Lemons
Classic cooking calls for basting the turkey or chicken with butter -- an ingredient typically high in cholesterol and saturated fat -- to create that rich golden brown skin color. Avoid the artery clogging ingredient by whisking together a delicious glaze of lemon, olive oil and dried herbs to create a unique, refreshing alternative that keeps turkey just as moist as butter but with a lighter, healthier zest of citrus flavor. Additionally, olive oil naturally contains good dietary fats and can help lower cholesterol.

When the Meat Thermometer Just Won’t Pop
Roasting a turkey often takes a little longer in the oven than anticipated, and guests usually wind up with a little extra time on their hands before sitting at the dinner table. Down-time often leads to extra snacking, and your guests may become full and tired before the main course. Plan to have classic games such as Monopoly, Connect Four, and Scrabble strategically placed in common areas where guests can easily play. This is a wonderful way to pass time and re-connect with family members.

Sweet as Pie
A wonderful holiday meal isn’t a smashing success without something irresistibly sweet to top it off. Instead of the heavy cakes, pastries and sugary pies, opt for light and refreshing palate-cleansing desserts that won’t weigh guests down. Try arranging a beautiful dessert bar with fresh fruit sorbets, light and airy biscotti, plates of fresh berries with creme fraiche and an assortment of hot teas. Not only are fruits packed with vitamins and minerals, but low-sugar desserts tend to be better for digestion and still a sweet end to a delicious meal. (The pie will not be missed.)

By following a few simple rules and modifications this season, your holiday dishes will offer the wonderful comforting tastes of traditional holiday fare with a lighter, healthier touch your guests will surely appreciate. For more helpful ideas and recipes for the holidays, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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