Tomorrow is the first of our next three dozen days of holiday eating opportunities ñ if we actually stop celebrating with food on New Yearís Day itself ñ which we probably wonít, given those ever-enticing leftovers.

So how do we steer a healthful eating course through such taste-tempting, invitation-laden and calorie-flooded waters? Our Eating Right itinerary can be simply made up of three identical four-letter words, plan, plan, plan.

If youíre cooking the meal, you have control of recipe contents, and can substitute low fat and sugar ingredients; if itís a family pot luck, you can bring things that are good for you to eat, such as a vegetable tray with a low fat, low sugar ranch dressing dip, and a dessert that fits your eating plan; if youíre a guest in another home, watch your portions to eat as right as you are able, and as a hostess gift, include a homemade, Eating Right, holiday treat with your bottle of wine; and in all cases, look over the menu or buffet table and decide which one of your favorite things you will enjoy at a single meal.

Believe me, by the time we ring in 2009, youíll have had ample opportunity to sample each of your most wanted holiday fare more than once! Also: Plan when you eat and how you will keep yourself from coming to any of the above tables in a near-starving state; plan to eat and drink something before the big meal.

Protein and fiber are good choices ñ such as a hard boiled egg, or 2% cheese on some high-fiber crackers. Both take the edge off hunger and give you a full feeling. A quick and easy preemptory strike is to drink one of those energy drinks or protein waters, but be a wise label reader and choose one that is low in sugar and offers the aforementioned protein and fiber. South Beach has a nutrient enhanced drink mix (strawberry banana and tropical fruit flavors) called Tide Me Over which mixed with water provides 30 calories, 3 grams of protein, five grams of fiber, no fat and no sugar.

I find it really helps curb hunger. Also, plan to get some exercise in on Turkey Day. Sure, the gym is closed but you can take a walk in the morning, or in the evening, or both. Youíll feel better, really; and finally, plan your portions. Try eating just a half slice of pie, or a smaller portion of sweet potato or green bean casserole, or having just one glass of wine. Youíll be glad you did.

Here are three of my favorite recipes to help get me through a holiday: Sugarless Cranberry Sauce and Painless (on the scales) Pumpkin Puddiní and at the bottom of the page, Sinless Cinnamon Bagels.

SUGARLESS CRANBERRY SAUCE

(Iíve never understood why Ocean Spray or some other cranberry canneries havenít put out a sugarless cranberry sauce. But now Iím glad, as this has become our new favorites with whole, fresh berries in a tangy sauce ñ and even easier than pie to make.)

3 cups (12 ounce package) fresh cranberries

1 cup Splenda

1 cup water

Rinse cranberries thoroughly. Bring sugar and water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add cranberries, return to a boil and stir occasionally until skins pop, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate. It will last in the fridge covered for about a month.

PAINLESS PUMPKIN PUDDINí

(Since I like the pie filling even better than the whole pie, I make this mixture in ramekins to produce a pumpkin pudding. (Dispensing with the crust also dispenses with a whole bunch of calories.) This will make six half-cup servings, which my mother-in-law would call ìa gracious plenty.î To make it even more decadent ñ and still well within Eating Right guidelines ñ I top this with Reddi-wip light whipped cream, in an aerosol can, with only 15 calories and very little fat or sugar in each tablespoon. Many tub-type toppings contain partially hydrogenated oils, a substance which makes both the toppings and your arteries harden.)

 

æ cup Splenda (white or brown sugar substitute)

O tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

O tsp ground ginger

º tsp ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 15 oz can Libbyís 100% Pure Pumpkin

1 can (12 fl oz) Carnation Evaporated 2% Milk

(Note: 1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice may be substituted for the cinnamon, ginger and cloves; however, the taste will be slightly different.)

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into ramekins. Bake in preheated 425 degree over for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and watch the ramekins closely. A knife inserted near the center will come out clean when the puddings are done. Cooking moves quickly in smaller containers. Cool on wire rack, cover and refrigerate.

Enjoy your holidays and the fact that with a bit of planning, you can indeed have your pie (and lots of other things you like) and eat it too!