How to trim holiday fat from your dinner table

Catharine L. Kaufman
Catharine L. Kaufman

‘Tis the season for stuffing your face silly from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, punctuated by some fattening pit stops (Chanukah, Kwanza, Christmas and various holiday cocktail parties). According to studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, although the average holiday weight gain is only one pound, it is not reversed during the spring and summer months, accounting for the increase in body weight during adulthood. Let’s leave the belly fat to Santa, and make this one a healthier, slimmer season, excluding high-calorie, artery-clogging celebratory monsters from the table.

Naughty noshes

Traditional cocktail nibbles, mostly deep-fried and accompanied by syrupy or creamy dipping sauces, are packed with trans fats, butters, heavy creams, sugars, hidden carbs, additives and GMOs. Steer clear of quintessential party hors d’oeuvres from Swedish meatballs and fried zucchini sticks to pigs in a blanket and egg rolls. Swap these out for turkey meatballs in marinara sauce, rice paper-wrapped spring rolls, vegetable crudités with assorted hummus and mint yogurt dips, grilled skewers of shrimp, chicken or veggies, and steamed gems like a variety of dim sum.

Pork in the road

Even though certain cuts of pork (like the loin) have been touted as leaner than chicken breast, for the most part holiday tables are dressed with unctuous and fatty spiral hams, bacon and pancetta. Many cuts are also loaded with sodium, carcinogenic nitrates, hormones and antibiotics.

When there’s a pork in the road, choose grass-fed, immune-boosting lamb, or heart-healthy mineral-rich sea treasures, including wild-caught salmon and shrimp, Dungeness crab, deep-sea scallops and caviar.

The Dark Side

As domesticated turkeys are flightless, they give their thigh and leg muscles a good workout pumping them with myoglobin proteins, making the flesh darker and fatter translating to more calories. But the skin’s the thing snagging first prize in the fat contest (3.5 ounces contain 44 grams of fat compared to the skinless breast with only 4 grams of fat). Ditch the skin, and substitute white meat for dark.

If you’re game to try a more pungent fowl, go for Rock Cornish hen or quail, as wild duck and goose are rich and greasy (and more fattening, too).

Carb control

Put creamy green bean casserole with fried onion strings on the sidelines, along with candied yams and fatty sausage stuffings. Yams are sweet enough going solo, while string beans are divine steamed and drizzled with sassy lemon vinaigrette.

Be an intrepid chef, experiment with healthier versions of stuffings using multi-grain breads, cholesterol-busting oatmeal, shredded root vegetables, wild or B-complex rich brown rice with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, or aromatic quinoa for an exotic change-up.

Slim down mashed potatoes blending in Greek yoghurt or goat cheese instead of the bazillion calories from butter and cream, while mushroom gravy trumps traditional fatty giblet.

Sugar ‘n’ spice and edible vice

You can guiltlessly indulge in your just desserts with some slimming slights of hand and disappearing acts. Pass on high-fat pecan pie filling for apple, berry and pumpkin, and lose the top crust. A little dab will do you for the whipped cream, or use non-dairy low-fat toppings such as almond, rice or coconut milk. Save Aunt Harriet’s buttery fruit cake for clichéic paperweights, and chuck the Yule log, pannetone, gingerbread cake and marzipan bonbons. Instead, whip up super dark, heart-healthy chocolate treats like walnut brownies packed with mood elevating antioxidants to make all a little mellow, ending the holiday feast on a blissful high.

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