TOPS offers 10 ways to lighten a holiday meal

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Cookie swaps, catered lunches, buffet tables brimming with treats: many of us celebrate the holidays by sharing food, said a TOPS Club nutrition expert. Don’t let the season to be a reason to overdo it, though.
Follow these 10 strategies from TOPS Club nutrition expert Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE.
1. Fill up first. Have a healthy snack before hitting the holiday party scene. Wiser choices are easier when not famished.
2. Go easy at the get-go. Holiday appetizers are calorie “minefields.” Select one tempting starter and then stick to shrimp, vegetables and fruit before the main course.
3. Bring your own. Stressing about what to eat at a holiday gathering? Volunteer to bring your own healthy dish that can double as a host or hostess gift.
4. Consider cauliflower. Cauliflower can stretch the starchiest of dishes. When planning an appetizer, look for cauliflower mashed potatoes, pizza and torte crusts, and even cookie recipes online.
5. Swap and save. Substitute low-fat yogurt, milk, cream cheese, mayonnaise, chicken stock and eggnog for high-fat recipe ingredients.
6. Get a gravy separator. Make your gravy “lean and mean.” Use a gravy separator to separate juices from fat, saving calories while concentrating flavor.
7. Do winter fruit desserts. There’s no need for high-fat desserts when winter fruits are in season. Oranges, kiwis and persimmons are a great finale for healthy holiday meals.
8. Mingle more and linger less. Make the rounds at holiday meals, try not to hang around the buffet table and limit second helpings to the healthiest fruit and vegetable dishes.
9. Put your fork down. It’s a time-tested trick — if you put your fork down between every bite, you’ll eat less and savor more.
10. Sip smartly. Avoid calorie-laden soft drinks, punches and/or mixers in alcoholic beverages, and take in large glasses of water between drinks.
TOPS Club is a weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 65 years ago, TOPS is the a nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is $28 per year plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view or call 800-932-8677.

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