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Tue, Sept. 22

Guest column: Eating healthy
Holiday meals don't have to be unhealthy

With the holidays right around the corner, overeating binges and weight gain are bound to happen. There is no better time than now to start cooking healthier delicious alternatives for you and your loved ones. Try these simple modifications for your homemade, holiday meals. You will be treating yourself to a guilt free meal, and yes, you can have those mashed potatoes!

The key is to make your meals from scratch, using whole foods. Cooking with fresh wholesome ingredients is actually cheaper than buying pre-made, frozen and packaged foods.

Appetizers - Make a tray with fresh-cut vegetables and fruit with a healthy dip consisting of sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), Greek yogurt, low-fat cream cheese, black olives, oregano, parsley and ground pepper. You don't want your guests to be full before they start on the main course.

The bird is the centerpiece of many holiday meals. Use low-sodium chicken broth, which cuts out the extra salt that your heart does not need. If you do use salt, substitute table salt for sea salt and add garlic powder, onion powder and fresh herbs such as basil, bay leaves and thyme.

The mashed potatoes - They're creamy and delicious. Some may think these are bad for your health, but when made properly they are actually quite healthy. They supply you with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. If you are watching your weight, choose red potatoes over Russet potatoes. You can blend them with one of these healthy options: low fat sour cream, low sodium chicken broth, fat free or 2% milk, pepper and sea salt, sparingly.

Cranberry sauce - Skip the processed canned jellied cranberry sauce that is filled with sugar and corn syrup and opt for a fresh homemade cranberry sauce. This is a tart yet sweet treat made with fresh or frozen whole cranberries, lemons, Sucanat (whole cane sugar) or honey with a pinch of sea salt.

Dressing-Substitute white, enriched bread crumbs or pre-packaged dressings for a homemade dressing made with whole grain bread, fresh vegetables and herbs. Substitute margarine/fake butters for EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), and use low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth.

Some love them, some hate them - candied sweet potatoes (yams) - Instead of the canned version with marshmallows on top, try a homemade version with sweet potatoes, fresh coconut (no sugar added), diced walnuts or pecans, cinnamon and coconut butter.

Desserts - Easy substitutions for pies: whole wheat pastry flour vs. white flour, coconut oil vs. Crisco shortening or butter, Sucanat or fresh made apple sauce vs. white sugar, fresh fruit vs. canned fruit.

With these simple, healthy substitutions, your holiday meal will be tasty and better yet, healthy.

Here's to your health!

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