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8 steps to healthy holiday eating

This holiday season will be different. We promise. In fact, with our help, you’ll enjoy the goodies and the parties, yet you won’t feel bloated and worried about the toll on your heart. It’s still early in the season, and you’ve got time to plan. Strategy—not utter denial—is the key to success. So let’s get started.

  1. Take stock. Begin with Thanksgiving and work your way through January 1. What do the “holidays” mean to you and your family? Grandma’s peanut butter cookies, Mom’s potato pancakes with sour cream, Aunt Gloria’s meatballs? Write it all down.
  2. Look for the stars. Review your list and highlight what’s naturally healthy. Be thankful for Thanksgiving, for example. Turkey topped with gravy but minus the skin is an American Heart Association-approved entree (see “Back To Basics”). Is fish part of your holiday tradition? Indulge!
  3. Skinny it down. Transform sweet-potato pie into a side dish of freshly baked sweet potatoes with a touch of cinnamon. Replace the beef in Uncle Joe’s New Year’s Day chili with ground turkey and red beans. Try our hints (see “Healthful Hints”), study cookbooks and magazines that have a health conscience and learn some culinary tricks. You’ll be surprised at how much old-fashioned flavor is retained by making clever substitutions.
  4. Create new favorites. If your table groans under the weight of buttered rolls and creamed onions, replace one of those heavy hitters with a platter of roasted winter vegetables. Exchange a dozen cookies for low-fat meringues flecked with chocolate chips. Look to the season’s harvest of cranberries, apples, pears, brussels sprouts, pumpkin and squash for inspiration.
  5. Practice portion control. If you can’t eliminate it or make it more healthful, limit it. Put a dollop of Grandma’s must-have giblet gravy on the side of the plate and dip your turkey in it for taste. Enjoy half a cup of eggnog, but just on Christmas Eve, when it means the most to you.
  6. Keep the rest lean and green. Don’t squander precious calories on a stale, store-bought cookie during a Wednesday coffee break. Follow proper dietary guidelines amid the festivities and you’ll buy yourself the flexibility for special indulgences.
  7. Party on. Be a good guest and offer to prepare a dish for the next event. Whip up a low-fat yogurt dip and cut up some crunchy crudités, or prepare an angel food cake and a winter fruit compote. Don’t be shy—ask about the menu ahead of time so you can plan your choices.
  8. Eat out with savvy. Favor restaurants that offer whole-grain breads, salads and seafood. Portions are often gigantic in restaurants, so split an entree with a friend or order an appetizer-size plate of pasta as your main meal.