Dear Eating Right: How can I serve a Christmas meal that includes the traditional foods my family is accustomed to without all the fat that we usually have?
Dear Roberta: If your holiday menu is like the average one--roast meat with butter-based gravy, lots of creamy vegetables and rich desserts, plus all the snack foods--as much as half of the calories can come from fat.
One obvious way to cut down on fat and calories in meat courses is to eat just three ounces of meat--about the size of a deck of cards. Most people eat more than twice that amount at this time of year. Another idea is to roast poultry without the skin so that it looks delicious when served instead of removing the skin before eating. This makes diners feel deprived.
Forget about packaged stuffing and pasta side dishes and make your own, using low-fat dairy products, fat-free substitutes or oil instead of butter and margarine, and ground turkey sausage instead of pork. Whole grains such as bulgur and couscous cooked with chicken or vegetable broths make unusual side dishes. If you do make dressing, cook it outside the bird so it doesn't soak up any fatty drippings.
Dessert doesn't have to be radically lean either: It's OK to indulge in treats as long as the fat and calories have been reduced. Substitute raisins, chopped apples, dates and currants for high-fat ingredients such as chocolate and nuts, then dollop with whipped topping instead of whipped cream. Have a small serving of pumpkin pie instead of pecan, which can have almost twice the calories and fat. Sugar-free gelatin desserts and angel food cake are two less fattening dessert options.
"Dieting is not a short-term thing," says Denise Rector, a registered dietitian and member of the American Heart Assn.'s Nutrition Committee, which each year develops a "Holidays a la Heart" menu brochure. "It's important to maintain healthy eating habits even at this time of year. Don't starve all week then splurge on the holidays," she says.
The AHA brochure features recipes that can be put together entirely in advance or on the same day. The turkey dishes, for example, take just 10 minutes to prepare. The desserts are creamy and rich-tasting. "You won't compromise taste," Rector says.
To obtain a free copy of AHA's healthy holiday cooking booklet, which includes the following holiday menu, write to: American Heart Assn., Greater Los Angeles Affiliate, 3550 Wilshire Blvd., 5th Floor, Los Angeles, Calif. 90010. Or call (800) HEART LA.
Game hens with
Broccoli with sunshine sauce
Easy Eggless Cocoa Cake
EASY EGGLESS COCOA CAKE
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla and stir until smooth. Pour into greased and floured 8-inch-square pan.
Bake at 350 degrees 35 to 40 minutes or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool, then remove from pan. When cooled completely, dust with powdered sugar. Makes 9 servings.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS OF HOLIDAY FOODS
Calories Fat Cholesterol Type of Food (Grams) (Milligrams) Breads and Grain Dishes Bread Stuffing, dry type from mix (1 cup) 500 31 0 Bread Stuffing, moist type with egg (1 cup) 420 26 67 Dinner Rolls, (1 roll) 85 2 0 Macaroni and Cheese, from home recipe (1 cup) 430 22 44 Desserts Baked Custard, (1 cup) 305 15 278 Cream Pie, piece (1/6 pie) 455 23 8 Pecan Pie, slice (1/6 pie) 575 32 95 Pumpkin Pie, slice (1/6 pie) 320 17 109 Fudge, chocolate, plain (1 ounce) 115 3 1 Gingerbread, slice, (1/9 of cake) 175 4 1 Fruitcake, dark, slice (1/32 of cake) 165 7 20 Meats and Poultry Ham, light cure, roasted, lean and fat (3 ounces) 205 14 53 Ham, canned, roasted (3 ounces) 140 7 35 Beef Roast, oven cooked, lean andfat (3 ounces) 315 26 72 Beef Roast, oven cooked, lean only (2.2 ounces) 150 9 49 Leg of Lamb, roasted, lean and fat (3 ounces) 205 13 78 Leg of Lamb, roasted, lean only (2.6 ounces) 140 6 65 Pork Rib, roasted, lean and fat (3 ounces) 270 20 69 Pork Rib, roasted, lean only (2.5 ounces) 175 10 56 Duck, roasted, flesh only (1/2 duck) 445 25 197 Turkey, light and dark meat, roasted (3 pieces) 145 4 65