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Enjoying a Low Fat Christmas

Low Fat Holiday Eating

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Low Fat Icebox Cookies

Low Fat Icebox Cookies

Fiona Haynes

If you're following a low fat diet, the holiday season is a mixed blessing, especially coming so soon after Thanksgiving. As wonderful as it is to be among family and friends for the holidays, it's hard to say no to all those tempting holiday treats that are passed around. Seemingly, you have two choices: abandon your good intentions and regret it later, or abstain and be miserable.

Fortunately, there is another option: choose wisely and still enjoy yourself. Better still, if you are hosting a holiday celebration, you can control what's on offer and adjust many of the recipes to make them lower in fat. As always, moderation and portion control rule. Too much of anything can add unwanted pounds and be unhealthy. Reducing fat is not an excuse to feast on lots of sugary holiday treats. But if you want to eat a sugar cookie and drink a little low fat eggnog, or have a slice of fruitcake and some mulled cider, you can. Make sure you compensate elsewhere; not by skipping meals, but by saying no to second helpings, by filling up with fruit and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water to aid digestion and keep you feeling full for longer. And don't forget to exercise: a brisk walk, running up the stairs, skating with the kids, or a proper workout, will all help burn excess holiday calories.

Lowering the Fat in Holiday Treats

  • Eggnog:

    1. Use mostly egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs.
    2. Use fat-free half and half or evaporated fat-free milk instead of their whole milk counterparts.
    3. Substitute rum extract for the alcohol if you want the taste without the effect.

  • Cakes, Bars and Muffins:

    1. Use heart-healthy canola oil instead of butter, or use applesauce or mashed bananas if you want to cut the fat completely. Other fruit purees will work too. If you must use shortening, there is at least a trans-fat-free version available.
    2. Substitute egg whites for whole eggs in cakes and quick breads.
    3. Use cocoa powder instead of chocolate in your baked goods to add a rich chocolatey flavor without the fat, or use smaller quantities of miniature chocolate chips instead of the regular versions. Dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips add more flavor than milk chocolate ones.

  • Cookies:

    The key here is to cut the fat rather than eliminate it altogether. If you take the butter out completely, the end result is not very satisfying in terms of texture or taste. Many recipes that typically call for a whole stick of butter or more can be made over with about half that quantity. Avoid using whipped butter or tub margarine: the air and water content in these makes them unsuitable for baking. Again, consider using cocoa for a rich chocolatey flavor and add smaller quantities of chocolate chips. Try some of these Low Fat Christmas Cookie options.


  • Nuts:

    In moderation, these make a great holiday snack. True, nuts are high in fat and dense in calories, but most of the fat is unsaturated. Some are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect the heart. Nuts are also an excellent source of B vitamins, as well as iron, zinc and potassium.

What About Other Holiday Food?

Holiday Appetizers:
  • Substitute low-fat or fat-free versions of mayonnaise, yogurt and sour cream to make dips.
  • Serve plenty of raw vegetables to accompany your dips.
  • Make a fresh salsa and serve with home-baked tortilla chips.
  • Use fat-free cream cheese and lean cuts of turkey or ham in pinwheels and roll-ups.
  • In soups, use fat-free and low sodium broths as your base. Use pureed root vegetables or beans to thicken them instead of cream.
Holiday Dinner:
  • Serve lean cuts of meat, such as pork or beef tenderloin. If a ham is your centerpiece, be sure to trim the fat. And if turkey is making a comeback at your table, remove the skin and choose white meat over dark if you can.
  • Provide plenty of vegetables. Steam, braise or roast them. Glaze with a very small amount of butter if you like, or use broth and herbs for flavor instead. If you are serving mashed potatoes, substitute reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream or half and half for the full-fat versions.
Holiday Desserts:
  • If you are serving a holiday pie, consider using phyllo dough as a base or topping. Phyllo dough is light and flaky, and virtually fat free. Enjoy fruit cobblers or crisps with less butter and use oats for added fiber. Top with fat-free whip or low fat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream or heavy cream.
  • Use reduced-fat and fat-free cream cheeses for cheesecakes
  • Serve poached or baked seasonal fruits such as apples or pears, again topping with low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt or whip.

These are just a few ideas about how to reduce fat in your Christmas feast. Here are some great low-fat recipes for the holidays.

If you have any other ideas or some great low fat holiday recipes to share with other readers, post them to the Low Fat Cooking Forum.

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