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Keep Your Heart and Maintain Your Waistline During the Holidays

Holiday meals, with turkey or ham and all the fixings, can turn the dining room table into a high fat smorgasbord. As tasty as they are, these feasts can make your arteries groan. The typical holiday meal is laden with fat: gravies made with meat dripping, mounds of creamy mashed potatoes, your favorite pies.

In fact, American adults usually gain one to two pounds each year, including slightly less than one pound during the holidays alone.

That gradual weight, year after year, can raise your risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Studies also show that fats-especially those found in fatty meats and cheeses, vegetable shortening, margarine, and some oil-can clog the arteries and contribute to heart disease.

Transforming High-Calorie Holiday Fare

A traditional holiday dinner of turkey, stuffing, other dishes, and desserts can exceed 2,500 calories and 130 grams of fat. That’s just for one meal. This is more calories and fat than you should consume in a whole day.

But, there are ways to de-fat holiday meals and keep your arteries and your taste buds happy. Here are some tips:

De-Fat Your Gravy: two tablespoons of regular gravy contain 4 grams of fat-and more people pour on more than that. Try pouring meat dripping into a container ahead of time and then refrigerate it. The fat rises to the surface so you can peal it off.

Un-stuff the stuffing: One benefit of this is that the stuffing does not absorb all the fat from the bird. Also, the inside of the bird gets cooked more thoroughly, killing any salmonella that may be present. Also, try adding nuts and fruits instead of the sausage or turkey giblets in your stuffing.

Nix the butter: try adding a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to your sweet potatoes instead of butter. Baked them in a nonstick baking pan.

Remove the skin: a 3 1/2-ounce serving of roast turkey breast with skin has 197 calories and 8.3 grams of fat. Without skin, it has 157 calories and 3.2 grams of fat.

Make a single-crusted pie: there’s no rule that a pie has to be double-crusted. Most of the fat in pies is found in the crust. Roll the crust a little thinner if you use a store-bough crust. Fruit pies are lower in fat than a pecan pie.

Bring out the fruits and vegetables: focus on pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, or other orange vitamin packed vegetables. Greens such as broccoli, spinach, and collard greens all pack vitamin power too. Serve colorful raw veggies with low-fat dip as an appetizer.

Make smart substitutions: use fat-free, low sodium chicken, or vegetable broth to moisten dressing. Use olive oil in place of butter or margarine. Mash potatoes with nonfat sour cream and low-fat milk. Use fat-free non-dairy creamers or evaporated skim milk instead of cream when you bake.

Don’t starve yourself until dinner: have a healthy breakfast so you don’t load up on at the big meal. When you sit down to eat, try to just a little of everything and go easy on the second helpings and dessert.

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