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FRESH and Festive: Lighter Side of Entertaining

When you’re cooking for company, you probably pull out all the stops. Fancier recipes, appetizer AND dessert. Problem is, a lot of the dishes we save for guests are also full of fat and calories. They’re OK for an occasional splurge, but you can’t eat this way all the time.

And honestly, even when guests are coming, you can shave off a lot of the excess calories and fat, just by making a few simple substitutions. With warm weather here, everyone will probably be happy to eat a little bit lighter.

  1. Citrus Squeeze: Brighten steamed or grilled veggies with a splash of lemon, lime or orange juice.
  2. Serious Cheese: Choose cheeses with more intense flavors such as feta, aged parmesan, Grana Padano or Mexican cotija. Just a little bit of these stronger cheeses goes a long way!
  3. Greek It Up: Fat-free Greek yogurt is a great replacement for sour cream in dips, enchiladas and on top of your favorite nachos. If you’ve tried to substitute regular yogurt in recipes, and didn’t like the results, try this anyway. Greek yogurt, even the fat-free kind, has a much thicker, richer, creamier texture than other yogurts.
  4. Think lean: Leaner cuts of beef start out with less fat and marbling, so you’re ahead of the game. Five cuts of beef are considered the leanest of all, with just 5 grams or less of fat per 3.5 ounce serving. They are: round roast or round steak; sirloin tip side steak; top round roast and steak; bottom round roast and steak; and top sirloin steak. These leaner cuts are best cooked using a slow or low-heat method, like braising or stewing. But these can still be special; try braising top sirloin in a flavorful red wine reduction, for instance.
  5. Cut the Cream: Instead of adding a lot of cream to soups and pasta sauces, thicken them with pureed vegetables, sautéed in a tiny bit of olive oil. Fat-free half-and-half can also do the duty of heavy cream in many sauces.
  6. Herbs, please: Fresh herbs add a ton of flavor without any calories. Combine them with good vinegar and a touch of olive oil for a salad dressing that holds far less sodium and fat than store-bought varieties.
  7. Skin Off: To keep chicken moist, cook it with the skin on, especially if you are grilling. However, remove it before serving and you can save 1/3 of the calories!
  8. Reduce the sugar: In most recipes, you can reduce the sugar by about ¼ and you won’t even notice it. Alternately, if you like the taste of Splenda or other sugar substitutes, you can halve the amount of sugar in a given recipe, and replace the other half with the appropriate amount of sugar substitute.
  9. Fruit-centered desserts: Build your desserts around fresh fruit rather than heavy chocolate or creamy concoctions. Try icy fruit sorbets, a medley of berries with honey-flavored Greek yogurt, or a simple bowl of melon or fresh pineapple. You still end the meal on a sweet note, but without feeling like you need an immediate nap.