Holiday Programming Hits the Airwaves on Food Network

Is it temptation around the corner on Food Network?

Set your TiVos, fellow food TV lovers: Food Network’s annual Season’s Eatings slate in full swing, offering tips and recipes to get you ready for the holiday season.

Saturday night, tune in for the programs that get me in the Christmas spirit on Holiday Cookie Night. Following a Yuletide-themed episode of Paula’s Party at 7 p.m. Eastern, we’ll be treated to three hours of cookie-baking mania.

Be still my heart!

Read the full post, with details on Food Network's upcoming holiday cooking programming, on Edible TV or Well Fed, if you're interested in planning the next big party.

How do you cope when faced with an onslaught of recipes for rich, festive fare?

First, I look for healthier recipes I can incorporate into the menu. True, roasted vegetables slathered in olive oil aren't particularly low in calories, but the extra calories provide special occasion indulgence while still packing you full of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats.

Look for holiday recipes that feature healthy ingredients without being bland, compromised "diet food."

Second, I find ways to make heavy recipes a little lighter or more nutritious. This year, for example, I substituted some whole wheat into my stuffing and roll recipes, I used reduced-fat cream cheese in the gratin, and I blended turkey bacon into the cheese ball. I also sautéed using oil rather than butter where I thought the flavor wouldn't be missed to cut down on saturated fat.

Substitute healthier ingredients when it's possible to do so without affecting the integrity of the dish.

The last bit is key - fat-free cheese, for example, makes sacrifices too great in the texture department for my taste. And the taste of many others - a serious compromise may just lead to everyone neglecting that dish.

Third, I plan on putting out appetizers. I love a big tray of veggies and dip myself, but consider your personal tastes. Reduced-fat cheeses work well if you buy most of your cheese from the case dominated by Kraft anyway, and a flavorful jerky can replace cured sausages. Popcorn is plenty festive, too, and you can dress it up with strong flavors (grated parmesan, garlic salt, herbs, and so on). I tend to fill up on hors d'ouerves long before dinner, which helps me implement the most important strategy: Eat less dinner!

Plan to fill up before you hit the buffet.

Finally, don't forget it's the holidays. This time comes only once a year, so please, allow for some indulgence! As long as you don't eat yourself sick every night, you can maintain your healthy lifestyle even while enjoying some December cheer.

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