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Health vs. temptation

Party foods can be good for guests

Party foods can be good for guests

November 29, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

Virginia Rodgers still indulges in party food, but it has to be healthy party food - less fat and sugar with fewer calories.

By watching what she has eaten and being active - she used to walk three miles a day before developing osteoporosis two years ago - Rodgers lost weight and has since maintained her weight at 136 pounds.

When she joined a local chapter of the weight-loss group Taking Off Pounds Sensibly on Jan. 26, 1981, the 5-foot-3 Hagerstown resident weighed almost 169 pounds. By May that year she was down to 138 pounds, she says.

The keys have been not frying foods and drinking water instead of soda pop, says Rodgers, 78.

This time of year there are lots of temptations ... sweet treats, big holiday meals and holiday parties at home and work.

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The finger food at these parties often is heavy on the fat side, with dips and spreads containing sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise. Then there are the brownies, cookies and other sweet bites.

Rodgers still eats sweets, but not many, and she eats healthful snacks. If she is going to a party where she knows there will be lots of cake, ice cream and other treats, she eats a healthful lunch first so she's not hungry at the party.

Rodgers and other weight-loss group members have found other party food options involving healthier ingredients.

Often such recipes are the result of substituting a reduced-fat sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise for the regular variety, says Deborah Rhoades, extension educator and dietitian with the Frederick County (Md.) Cooperative Extension Office.

There are nonfat options too, though Rhoades says she's found the low-fat varieties tend to be more palatable than the nonfat ones, thus providing a happy medium.

Sometimes she will offer her guests tasting options: A dip made with a nonfat item and a dip made with a low-fat item. Then see which they prefer for future reference.

Rhoades cautions people to check nutrition labels. Foods that are promoted as nonfat or low in fat might have higher amounts of salt or sugar than the regular variety.

Healthy, ready-to-eat snack items, such as whole-grain crackers and pretzels and reduced-fat cheese, also are available. Cabot makes a low-fat cheddar cheese that has an excellent taste, Rhoades says.

The Whole Grains Council has made it easier to spot healthy whole-grain foods with the Whole Grain Stamp, signifying that item has at least half a serving of whole grains, according to www.wholegrainscouncil.org.

Here are some of Rhoades' suggestions for healthy appetizers and some local residents' recipes for party foods.

Fruit bites work on their own, or you can make a dip consisting of plain yogurt mixed with orange juice concentrate or apple juice concentrate.

Serve raw vegetables such as baby carrots, squash, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower with low-fat dip.

While premade turkey roll-ups can be purchased, making your own can result in a healthier, lower-fat product. Spread reduced-fat cream cheese on a tortilla. Then layer turkey lunchmeat with lettuce, tomato and other veggies. Roll up and slice to serve. Substitute reduced-fat cream cheese with mustard or reduced-fat mayonnaise.

The Frederick County Cooperative Extension Office is offering a class, "Healthful Holiday Entertaining," with recipes for a variety of dishes, not just appetizers. The course costs $3 and will be held at the extension office, 330 Montevue Lane, Frederick, Md., with separate classes from 1 to 2 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11. To reserve a spot in the class, call 301-694-1594.

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