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Holiday Food Horrors
'Tis the season of temptation. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the average person puts on a pound during the holidays and never loses it. For those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, land mines abound on the dinner table. Fortunately, you can avoid the holiday food trap with WebMD's list of holiday foods that are naughty and nice.
Naughty: Turkey Skin
The skin of turkey and chicken is loaded with saturated fat. Per gram, all fats are higher in calories than protein or carbs, and they contribute to high cholesterol. Dark meat has more fat per bite than white meat.
Nice: Serve yourself turkey breast or other white meat without the skin.
Stuffing is typically loaded with butter and assorted high-fat meats, such as sausage. A single scoop may have up to 550 calories.
Nice: Replace butter with low-sodium chicken broth, and skip pork sausage in favor of a low-fat chicken, oyster, or fruit alternative. Or try making wild rice stuffing instead.
Naughty: Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Usually, a lot of milk, butter, and salt go into this classic comfort food. A cup of homemade mashed potatoes made with whole milk and butter can have 237 calories.
Nice: Mash the potatoes with low-fat milk or low sodium, fat-free chicken stock and skip the butter, or salt.
Naughty: Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables out there. They've got vitamins A and C, plus a dose of calcium and potassium. But they are often served in a decidedly unhealthy fashion casseroles made with marshmallows, butter, and loads of sugar.
Nice: Leave out the butter, cut the sugar in half, and lightly top with mini marshmallows. This will shave calories and fat, not taste.
Naughty: Pecan Pie
Although pecans are packed with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, pecan pie is a minefield of sugar and calories. A typical slice of pecan pie has 500 to 800 calories. That's because it's usually made with oodles of corn syrup, butter, and sugar.
Nice: Nibble on a bowl of mixed nuts instead. If you can't resist the pie, choose pumpkin or opt for a very small slice and don't eat the crust.
Naughty: Fancy Finger Foods
Be careful at the office holiday party -- canapes and other fancy appetizers are often full of fat. Each one is tiny, but the calories add up quickly when there is an endless parade of hors d'oeuvres.
Nice: Chilled shrimp, veggies, and fresh fruits are nutritious low-calorie appetizers.
Another steer-clear appetizer, each bite-sized piggy has 6 grams of fat, lots of sodium, and little to offer in the way of nutrition.
Nice: Fruit-in-a-blanket is a great alternative. Wrap figs or fuyu persimmon wedges with a thin strip of prosciutto, and then bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Naughty: Potato Pancakes
Potato pancakes or latkes are a favorite during Hanukkah. But a single medium-sized latke can have more than 250 calories. Traditionally fried in oil, they are dripping with fat. What's more, the usual topping is sour cream, another pound packer.
Nice: If you're doing the cooking, use a small amount of vegetable oil or, better yet, cooking spray. If you're doing the eating, limit yourself to a couple of latkes with unsweetened applesauce on top.
Naughty: Caramel Popcorn
Large tins of flavored popcorn have become a popular holiday gift. Although popcorn itself is a nutritious whole-grain snack, slathering on sugary caramel or other sweet syrups is a recipe for weight gain.
Nice: Stick to plain popcorn, the crunch is just as satisfying without the extra calories.
Naughty: Egg Nog
Alcohol, heavy cream, eggs, and sugar make a frightening combo â€“ a single cup of egg nog contains about 340 calories and 19 grams of fat.
Nice: Make low-calorie egg nog with skim milk, egg substitutes, and artificial sweeteners.
Naughty: Mixed Drinks
Cocktails can be surprisingly high in calories. An 8-ounce white Russian made with light cream has 715 calories.
Nice: Mix up a wine spritzer by adding a splash of wine and sparkling water to pomegranate or cranberry juice. This not only shaves calories, but also contributes to your fruit servings for the day.
Naughty: Cakes & Cookies
Carbohydrate cravings may increase during fall and winter. You don't want to give in by reaching for too many sweets, but it's not good to ignore the cravings either. Carbs taste good and make you feel good triggering the release of serotonin, a brain chemical that boosts mood.
Nice: The solution is to control portions or snack on complex carbs, such as whole-grain cereal or crackers.
Naughty: Milk Chocolates
Milk chocolates are high in fat and low in the disease-fighting compounds found in purer forms of dark chocolate. Caramel or cream-filled chocolates are also lacking in the health department.
Nice: Solid dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is most beneficial, but only in small amounts. Choose dark chocolate with heart-healthy nuts.
Avoid Naughty Holiday Foods
Knowing which foods are naughty is only half the battle. Help yourself resist temptation with these tips:
- Engage in conversation to slow the pace of eating.
- At parties, sit far from the buffet table.
- Excuse yourself from the dinner table once you've had enough to eat.
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy to reduce the desire to nibble.
More Reading on Holiday Foods
Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Slideshow: The Naughty List of Holiday Foods
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