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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Loading up on lighter fare for the holidays

STILLWATER, Okla. – Sharing rich, delicious traditional and favorite dishes with family and friends is often part of what makes the holidays so special. No worries for anyone watching the waistline, though. There are plenty of tips and tricks for health-conscious folks on the hook for hosting the family meal or contributing to the feast.

“There are lots of ways to lighten recipes without sacrificing taste or flavor,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

Many times, it is a simple matter of substituting a few ingredients in a dish.

For instance, swapping two egg whites for one egg reduces dietary cholesterol, low-sodium vegetable broth in mashed potatoes adds flavor while cutting down on extra butter or margarine and reduced- or low-fat cheeses work just as well as the full-fat versions in salads and casseroles.

Applesauce makes an excellent substitute for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads such as banana bread. Just keep in mind the more that is substituted, the more the texture of the finished item changes, so start with a small amount.

Other easy exchanges include using sliced almonds for a crunchy topping instead of friend onion rings and relying on fat-free yogurt, sour cream and whipped topping for dips, sauces and pie toppings.

Keeping it simple in the kitchen is another way to stay on a healthy track.

“Try using plain fruit. Apples, cranberries and pears are an excellent combination for a salad, fruit crisp or topping for the turkey,” Hermann said. “Uncomplicated but flavorful alternatives such as roasted vegetables or vegetable stir-fries also are great options.”

There are even work-arounds for dessert. Think about using fresh fruit or fruit canned in fruit juice, light syrup or water. Or, rather than frosting, dust cakes with powdered sugar.

Finally, cooking with nonstick pans or nonstick spray; foregoing adding salt to dishes; using less butter; and seasoning food with herbs, spices or wine also will help lighten the meal.

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Leilana McKindra
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