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Cholesterol-Friendly Cooking Tips during the Holidays

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Updated December 01, 2011

The holidays don’t seem the same without the aroma of delicious foods cooking in the oven or on top of a stove. However, if you have high cholesterol -- or are cooking for a loved one with high cholesterol -- cooking may seem a little difficult at first because it involves examining the ingredients of the foods you consume a little more closely. In some cases, this confusion may result in not preparing your traditional holiday favorites altogether out of fear of introducing additional fat into your diet. Fortunately, there are ways you can modify your favorite holiday recipes to make them a little more cholesterol-friendly.

Use low-fat or skim dairy products.

Dairy products that are low in fat will usually state this on their food label, usually by stating that they are made with “skim” milk or are low-fat. Those dairy foods carrying this label are usually lower in fat than their high-fat counterparts. For instance, if your recipe calls for cream cheese to be added to your dish, opt for a low-fat version of this product. Needing a scoop of sour cream for your recipe? Use a low-fat version of the product or, better yet, use low-fat plain yogurt instead of the sour cream.

Watch your oils.

The oils you use to prepare your dishes can also be a source of added fat. In the preparation for your next meal, try using oils that are higher in unsaturated fat and lower in saturated fat content, such as olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil. Foods with unsaturated fats will not greatly impact your cholesterol levels. On the other hand, oils higher in saturated fats may cause an increase in cholesterol levels. These cooking oils, which include coconut oil and palm oil, should be used sparingly or not at all in your recipes if you are watching your cholesterol.

Spice things up.

Spices are fun to experiment with, and will also not have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels. Rosemary, thyme, and oregano are just a few of the many spices you can choose from. Not only will these spices add a lot of taste to your meals, they also contain heart-healthy phytosterols. Other spices, like capsaicin and cinnamon, have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels in some studies.

Avoid introducing trans-fats.

Trans-fats are a type of fat that can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the body -– and your risk for heart disease. Because of their effect on your cholesterol, trans-fats should be greatly limited -– or even excluded –- from your diet. Found in many fried foods, trans-fats can also be hidden in other types of foods, such as spreads and frosting. To avoid introducing ingredients containing trans-fats into your diet, you should read the food labels on the packages you plan to use in the preparation of your dishes. Additionally, bake or roast your foods instead of frying them.

Watch your use of butter or margarine.

Butter and margarine are common ingredients used in many recipes and are sometimes used to grease down pans to prevent foods from sticking to surfaces. Both margarine and butter can increase your cholesterol levels by adding additional fat into your diet. If you are looking to limit margarine and butter in the recipes you prepare, try some of these helpful tips:

  • Use a heart-healthy oil, such as vegetable oil or olive oil, instead of butter or margarine.
  • Use an alternative spread that contains phytosterols and/or is labeled trans-fat free. These spreads are usually softer than butter and margarine.

In some cases, these alternatives may not be compatible with a recipe you are preparing -– especially in cases where you are baking a cake or making muffins. In this case, you may need to include butter or margarine in your recipe in order to keep the consistency of the food. However, you could experiment with reducing the amount of butter or margarine you include in your recipe -– without significantly affecting your final product!

Instead of using butter or margarine, try using parchment paper or lightly coating your pans with a heart-healthy oil, such as olive oil, instead. This can also help reduce the amount of fat introduced into your diet.

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