In December, temptation takes many holly, jolly edible forms — from rich hors d’oeuvres and calorie-laden cocktails to fatty fowls and decadent desserts. Let’s leave the belly fat to Santa by choosing “nice” foods over “naughty” ones while still enjoying some seasonal cheer.
Beware of the traditional cocktail hors d’oeuvres that are a secret store of trans fats, sugars, additives and GMOs. Steer clear of the deep-fried and fatty offerings, including tempura, mozzarella and zucchini sticks, cheese straws, calamari and onion rings, won tons, party wings, egg rolls and Swedish meatballs.
Creamy, cheesy or syrupy dipping sauces, bacon-wrapped treats, quiches, pigs in a blanket, and quesadillas are other holiday no-nos.
Instead, scope out better, lighter choices, such as, turkey meatballs in marinara sauce, rice paper wrapped spring rolls, vegetable crudités or roasted veggies with assorted hummus, eggplant and minty yogurt dips, grilled skewers of shrimp or chicken, steamed gems of dim sum, turkey bacon wrapped goodies and, if you’re lucky--caviar canapés.
While pork-marketing campaigns have touted “the other white meat” as a leaner carnivorous alternative to beef, most cuts (other than the loin or crown roast) contain a mother lode of fat, sodium, hormones, antibiotics and carcinogenic nitrates. So when there’s a pork in the road, veer off the baked ham, pancetta or pork sausage route to grass-fed, pasture raised, immune-boosting lamb or pescavore preferences, including heart-healthy, mineral-rich wild caught sea treasures, especially salmon, diver scallops, Dungeness crab and shrimp.
Don’t be left in the dark
The dark meat of assorted fowls are more tender and juicy than the white breast meat, with a trade off of having more saturated fat and cholesterol, translating to more calories too. Waterfowl, including ducks and geese are entirely dark meat, while the domestic birds tend to be even fatter than their wild counterparts, (except Muscovy which is leaner than its Peking cousin).
So for the cholesterol- and calorie-conscious, choose the breast meat of turkey, chicken or Cornish hen (pass on fat-laden wings altogether), adding cranberry relish or sauce to counter the dryness. If you’re game for more succulent, pungent fowl, go for the leaner, wild waterfowl or the domestic Muscovy, and remember to trim any excess fat before roasting.
The skin’s the thing snagging first prize in the fat competition (3.5 ounces contain 44 grams of fat compared to the skinless breast with only 4 grams of fat), so go au natural and shed the skin.
Swap out rich, high fat carbs, gravies and stuffings for lighter, guiltless choices. Put the creamy green bean casserole with fried onion strings on the back burner for steamed beans with a citrus vinaigrette drizzle, or roasted Brussels with a balsamic glaze. Instead of the sickeningly sweet marshmallow topping on the yam casserole, you can substitute the healthier and less cloying toasted walnuts or pecans.
And ditch fatty sausage and pedestrian white bread stuffings for exotic and lighter concoctions from chestnut and fresh herbs or shredded roasted roots to aromatic wild rice, quinoa or buckwheat blends.
Put mashed potatoes on a diet by replacing sour cream and butter with plain yoghurt and goat cheese, while adding an antioxidant oomph with roasted garlic and mashed celery root (recipe below). You can still indulge in gravy, but do a wild mushroom or vegetable-based one instead of traditional fatty giblet.
Transform favorite holiday treats with slimming slights of hand making fats and sugars vanish. Lose top pie crusts to instantly cut carbs. A little dab’ll do you with whipped cream or sub for less fatty non-dairy toppings, a dollop of Greek yoghurt or sorbets.
Today’s fruitcake is not your grandma’s clichéic doorstopper. The neon glow-in-the-dark fruit nuggets and gobs of butter have been replaced with lighter, more nutritious ingredients, such as nut oils and dried cherries, cranberries, figs and dates.
A bowl of fresh berries with a balsamic drizzle beats them all along with a steamy infusion of holiday-spiced herbal tea that always seems to warm the cockles of your heart, while energizing your soul.
Slimmed Down Mashed Spuds
1 pound redskin or Yukon gold potatoes, quartered, skin on
1/2 pound celery root, peeled, diced
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon feta or goat cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Method: Steam potatoes, celery root and garlic until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add yoghurt, cheese, oil and spices. Mash to desired consistency. Enjoy immediately.