Weight loss. It's easily the number one New Year's resolution for Americans, year after year. It's tough giving up all of the delicious foods we love, and it can be hard to stick with exercise programs. If losing weight is on your list of resolutions, here are some tips, courtesy of online meal planning service eMeals, to help create lighter versions of your favorite foods.

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1 - Skip the cream and "cream of"

Beware of any white sauce made with heavy cream or canned cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup: It's a calorie, fat and sodium bomb. You can whip up a slimmer and trimmer basic white sauce by melting 3 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 Tbsp flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 11/2 cups low-fat milk and 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth. Simmer, whisking constantly, 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg, if desired.

2 - Bake, don't fry

Oven-frying with different breadings like panko breadcrumbs, finely chopped nuts or flaked unsweetened coconut gives you the crispy crunchy texture of fried comfort foods without the added fat. Case in point: Panko-Crusted Chicken Fingers. Dip chicken tenders in beaten egg, and then dredge in panko breadcrumbs. Place in a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray; bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, and enjoy—guilt free.

3 - Mash a better veggie

Use mashed cauliflower, parsnips or turnips in place of carb-heavy potatoes to cut calories while simultaneously amping up the fiber and nutrients. Roast the vegetables instead of boiling them to deepen the flavor, reducing the amount of butter needed to perk up the taste when mashing.

4 - Halve the meat

Making meatloaf? Replace half the meat with cooked lentils and add shredded carrot and zucchini. Meat sauce? Trade half the ground beef for finely chopped mushrooms. Burgers? Use half ground beef and half canned beans. Your meal will be just as flavorful and comforting, only with less fat and more nutrients.

5 – Cook it slow

A slow cooker transforms lean cuts of meat from tough to fork-tender. This easy, time-saving method helps control calorie and fat counts by using cuts like chuck roast and London broil in place of fattier varieties like skirt and strip steak. Bonus: You don't need to add oil or butter to a slow cooker as you do when making a stovetop stew. Check out this 270-calorie rendition of Crock-Pot Beef & Carrots Au Jus.