The holidays are upon us and many long term care facilities provide festive meals and celebrations all season long. Many residents will welcome some of their favorite holiday dishes on the menu and maybe some new and healthier versions as well.

Many holiday foods include dairy products and are enjoyed by many. However, use skim or low fat dairy products in the recipes whenever possible to lower the fat content. Use light or ultra-light cream cheese or low fat cheeses. If you must use butter, mayonnaise or sour cream, try to incorporate it in smaller amounts.

Choose lean meats for the menu items. Turkey is extremely lean and is a great choice for a special holiday meal. If you use other meats remove any visible signs of fat before cooking. Fish is extremely versatile and healthy for the elderly. Salmon is high in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids and can be a very special holiday meal which is extremely healthy.

Cool soups, gravies and stews prior to serving to remove the hardened fat that has collected at the top. Use vegetable cooking sprays to prevent foods from sticking.

Most vegetables contain little or no fat, it is what we add to them that makes the fat content increase. Avoid serving thick creamy sauces on vegetables or tons of butter. Steam the vegetables to keep them healthy. Choose dark green vegetables such as broccoli and bright orange ones like carrots and sweet potatoes because they are high in anti-oxidant vitamins, folic acid and fiber. Antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C and E can be protective agents against heart disease and cancer. Folic acid may play a role in reducing heart attacks and strokes. When planning the holiday menu, choose the darkest color vegetables to ensure maximum nutrition.

Salads are a great addition to the holiday menu but make sure to offer low fat dressing when serving.

Rather than cooking the stuffing in poultry or a roast, it is better to cook the stuffing in a separate casserole dish as this will reduce the amount of fat in the stuffing.

Make gravy from low fat broth rather than drippings to reduce the overall fat content. If the gravy recipe calls for milk, make sure you use skim milk instead of whole or 2%.

Dessert is the most favorite part of the meal to most seniors. You can make a few minor changes and still have the tried and true standard sweets. When making pumpkin pie, use evaporated skim milk. Offer angel food cake with strawberries as a special dessert with a lower fat total.

The holidays are for everyone to enjoy and no one wants to deprive anyone of their favorite dishes but if you can make a few minor changes to the ingredients many times the resident, family or staff member may not even notice. Make the holidays healthy and happy for everybody.