Weekly Column by Johanna Hicks: Small Changes Could Make Big Difference

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Small Changes Could Make Big Difference

               The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are upon us!  Holiday meals can be healthier and taste just as good by using some basic recipe substitutions or alterations.  The sugar, fat or sodium content of many holiday recipes can be reduced without a noticeable difference in taste.  For example, if a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, try using three-fourths or two-thirds of a cup. If it calls for a half-cup of oil, shortening or other fat, try one-third cup instead.

               Jenna Anding, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist, College Station, also suggests using reduced-fat or non-fat cheese, milk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or mayonnaise instead of higher-fat counterparts like regular cheese or cream.  This cuts down on unnecessary calories and fat grams, while still providing the flavor.  For mashed potatoes, try using defatted broth instead of butter to reduce both fat and calories.  Modifying more complicated recipes may not always produce the desired texture, so it’s best to test the recipe on friends or family before going “all in” with a revised recipe.

               Many traditional holiday foods can be healthy and nutritious choices, so long as they are not embellished in ways that take away from their innate nutritional value – examples: extra butter, gravy or toppings.   A holiday favorite, the sweet potato, contains fiber as well as vitamins A and C.  A medium-sized baked sweet potato contains about 100 calories, but many people add sugar, butter and other ingredients, which really ups the calorie count. A baked sweet potato with a little bit of brown sugar and cinnamon is a far healthier option than one topped with butter, sugar or marshmallows.

               Fresh cranberries are another healthy option for holiday recipes.  Unlike canned cranberries or cranberry sauce, which often contain added sugar, fresh cranberries are naturally healthful. They contain phytonutrients and have anti-inflammatory properties that can promote health and may reduce the risk of disease.  Adding fresh cranberries to salads and baked items such as muffins, cookies and pies is also a good way to sneak in some extra nutrition and flavor.

               Anding suggests leaving the skin on a turkey while cooking it but then removing the skin after cooking to reduce the overall fat content.  For holiday vegetable dishes, the healthiest method of cooking is either steaming or roasting the vegetables using a small amount of oil or cooking spray.  Adding herbs and spices can enhance flavor without adding fat, calories, or sodium.

               To keep up your health during holidays, balance is key.  Even with healthier ingredients and preparation techniques, it’s important to show restraint when eating holiday meals.  The holidays provide more opportunities to eat due to social gatherings, office parties and other festivities.  You can expect to take in some extra calories during the holidays, but try to plan accordingly so you can keep your calorie intake in check…and don’t forget to schedule in some type of physical activity to help burn off those extra calories. Take a walk or do some light exercise.

Diabetes Support Group

               The Diabetes Support group is alive and well.  Due to Christmas holidays, a meeting will not be held in December, but will resume on Tuesday, January 25.  Anyone is welcome to join us for great information on healthy eating, monitoring blood glucose, and learning skills to manage diabetes.  Feel free to share concerns, share recipes, ask questions and have fun in the process!

               The group meets the 4th Tuesday of each month at 12:00 noon, at the Hopkins County AgriLife Extension Office, 1200 W. Houston, in Sulphur Springs.  There is no charge to attend and you will leave with great information each month.  If you have questions, feel free to call my office at 903-885-3443.

Closing Thought

Thanksgiving is about the meal.  It’s about a thankful heart!

Article by Johanna Hicks of Hopkins County Texas Agri-Life

 

 

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