Holiday Foods: The Good and The Bad (cont.)

Eating regular meals and snacks every day makes it easier to resist overdoing it at festive events. When you occasionally skimp on meals because you're busy shopping, wrapping, and baking, nosh on a protein-packed snack, such as low-fat yogurt or reduced-fat cheese, to blunt your hunger before gathering with family or friends.

At parties, pile your plate with lower-fat foods to limit high-calorie splurges. The following top picks have fewer calories, fat, and sodium and more fiber than other holiday fare:

  • Whole grains, such as whole-wheat rolls, wild rice, and quinoa
  • Shrimp, lobster, and other steamed seafood
  • Plain or lightly dressed vegetables
  • Meat and poultry without the gravy
  • Salad greens (lightly dressed)
  • Fresh fruit

'Good for You' Holiday Foods

You know that lower-fat foods are the wisest choices no matter what time of year. But the benefits of holiday fare don't end with fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

"Many holiday foods that people think they should avoid are actually healthy in small amounts," says Vasconcellos.

As long as you mind your portions, these perennial favorites are wise choices. For fewer calories, prepare them with an artificial sweetener used in cooking, such as Splenda. Here's what they have to offer, besides calories:

Applesauce and Apples

Heart-healthy fiber does indeed keep the doctor away. Look for unsweetened applesauce to get the fiber without the sugar. Bake apples with the skin to get a potent flavonoid called quercitin, which helps prevent heart disease.

Cheese

You get the most bone-building calcium and protein from hard cheeses.

Cranberry Sauce (Unsweetened)

Cranberries spell trouble for bacteria that cause most urinary tract infections. If you like sweet cranberries, add a minimal amount of sugar, or artificial sweetener.

Dark Chocolate

Seventy percent dark chocolate contains the most flavonols -- helpful plant substances that help decrease cholesterol.

Green Beans

Naturally low in calories, string beans are loaded with vitamin K, which helps protect your bones. Also, a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A. But skip heavy sauces with this veggie. Try beans lightly tossed with olive oil and lemon.

Nuts

Nuts are chock-full of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Pumpkin Pie

This rich orange vegetable contains carotenoids for making vitamin A in the body and fighting free radicals. Pumpkin is also a good source of potassium and fiber. Beware: most pies are loaded with sugar. Use artificial sweetener instead of sugar for a lower calorie dessert.

Yams/Sweet Potatoes

Yams offer carotenoids, potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. Candied yams are high in sugar. Bake with a bit of brown sugar, or with artificial sweetener, for the taste without the calories.