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Around the Home: How to avoid packing on calories at holiday meals
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Food is often the highlight of parties, whether it’s a dinner or a gathering with snacks.

It’s peak “party food” season especially if you’re enjoying college bowl games or planning for New Year’s Eve or the Super Bowl.

You can easily alter what’s offered and how it’s served. It will allow your guests to naturally cut back on the calories without even knowing it.

First, make smaller portions look larger. Serve the food on the smallest, most festive plates you can find, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommends. Generally this is a dessert plate for snacks and 7-inch or salad plate for a dinner.

Avoid selecting the enormous dinner plates you often see. Also, buy smaller cups and glasses and fill them with ice before pouring the beverage.

Second, along with the sugary drinks, offer unsweetened tea, coffee, sugar-free soft drinks, tonic or seltzer water with lime and lemon, and just plain water. Put the low-calorie drinks in beautiful pitchers and take them around to your guests often during the party. As a result, they’ll think of them first when they need a drink, rather than the sweet drinks.

Third, look for lower calorie recipes for at least half the food you plan to serve. Good sources include magazines such as “Cooking Light,” “Diabetes Forecast,” “Diabetic Living” and various cookbooks from the American Diabetes Association.

You don’t have to have diabetes to benefit from these excellent, flavorful recipes.

Fourth, adjust your own recipes. Here are some ideas:

  • Light sour cream, light mayonnaise and light cream cheese instead of their regular full fat versions
  • Plain low-fat or non-fat yogurt mixed half-and-half with light mayonnaise to use as a salad dressing for mayonnaise based dips, salad dressing and sauces.
  • Reduced or low sodium beef or chicken broth to season vegetables instead of fatback, bacon or butter.
  • Lower fat creamed soups in casseroles.
  • Reduced or low fat shredded cheese instead of regular cheese.
  • Half the butter, oil or margarine called for in the recipes.

Fifth, don’t socialize at the dinner table after the meal is over. Instead have an active party — play outside with your children or grandchildren; enjoy charades or board games; take a walk to see holiday decorations; sing, play music and dance. Do anything but sit and eat.

Sixth, send the leftovers home with your guests. Have the storage containers and wraps out and ready to go. Pack those tempting “goodies” up for transport right away. If you have to hunt for “doggie bags,” you’ll waste time and your guests will probably be long gone.

Sandra Stringer is a nutrition educator with the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact: 770-535-8290. Her column appears biweekly on Wednesdays and on

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