Holiday Foods for the Cholesterol-Conscious

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If your doctor has warned you to watch what you eat because of high nutrition experts insist it’s possible. Here’s how, from the first toast to the dessert.

A Slimmer Eggnog or Other Toast

If you love to toast the season with an eggnog or two, be aware: One cup of regular eggnog has 343 calories, 19 grams of fat (more than 11 grams of that saturated) and 150 milligrams of cholesterol.

But there are alternatives. “There are a lot of lower-fat eggnogs on the market now,” says Jeannie Gazzaniga Moloo, RD, PhD, a Roseville, Calif., dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

You may have to taste-test a few to find one closest to the real thing.

If eggnog is something you love, “go for a small amount,” Zelman says, even if it’s the full-fat stuff. You could also consider starting a new toasting tradition — with cider or wine, says Zelman. Both are kinder to cholesterol-watchers. And studies say one glass of wine a day for women, two for men helps protect your heart-healthier than saturated.

But calories “add up fast on nuts,” Moloo warns. “A small handful is enough.”

Once you’re done with the nuts, try to graze the vegetable platter, if there is one, Moloo says. “Because of the fiber content, they can actually help lower cholesterol.”

Never mind the saturated fat in the chips — the dips are also loaded with fat. If you’re the hostess, you can turn to low-fat dips, perhaps labeling them discretely for guests concerned about cholesterol.

If you’re the guest, your best bet is to eat them sparingly — or at least dip veggies in them, not chips.

Pick Your Meats Wisely

Eat all meat skinless, Moloo advises. And look for leaner cuts — a filet, for instance, instead of cheaper beef cuts.

While casseroles of tuna and other meat are plentiful during the holidays — and are often family favorites — opt instead for a plain piece of meat if you can, says Moloo.

If turkey is a main course, fruits and vegetables.” That will automatically make the stuffing lower in calories than adding butter — and higher in fiber. Consider adding dried cherries, raisins, or cranberries, she says.

Vegetables: The Simpler, the Better

Green bean casserole smothered in sour cream or cream of mushroom soup and shoestring potatoes may be a family tradition, but it carries a hefty fat price tag. Steam green beans without the toppings instead, experts suggest.

When it comes to vegetables, “the least prepared a food is, the better,” Moloo says.

Or turn to a wintry vegetable such as roasted butternut squash, Zelman suggests. “Simple, roasted, not in a casserole,” she says. Unless you made a casserole yourself, it’s a mystery what’s in it, she says. You have no idea the total fat grams or cholesterol.

Another good choice: roasted sweet potatoes, maybe with a dollop of melted marshmallows, but no butter, Zelman suggests.

Cholesterol-Kinder Desserts

Pies tend to be very high in fat due to their crusts, Moloo says. A slice of pumpkin pie — one-eighth of a 9-inch pie — has 316 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 65 milligrams of cholesterol. A slice of pecan pie weighs in at 503 calories, 27 grams of fat (but only 5 of it saturated), and 106 milligrams of cholesterol.

You could leave the crust behind, saving a lot of fat grams.

If you’re the cook, make simple substitutions to recipes, such as making a graham cracker crust with a bit of margarine instead of a higher-fat pastry crust, Thayer says.

You can also consider a crustless pie.

Or you could turn to desserts such as sorbet; fruit with raspberry sauce or low-fat ice cream; or fresh fruit over angel food cake — all low in fat, Moloo says.

Start the Day Right

No one’s perfect during holiday feasts, but you can offset some damage by eating the right breakfast that it will be easy the rest of the day and night to pick wisely — and enjoy.