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Sandra Stringer: Slight variations to recipes can make dishes healthier
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Family dinners are great places to treat your appetites this holiday season. Unfortunately, it’s tempting to overeat.

Yes, I admit it. I ate too much on Thanksgiving, but my plate did include various vegetables such as green beans, collards and corn. And I only had one piece of cake — my aunt’s homemade red velvet cake. It’s delicious and definitely my favorite.

Anytime I see red velvet cakes in the store or a restaurant, I automatically start thinking about the one she makes. Do they measure up to her recipe? So far, none of them can even compare. Her creation is just beyond delicious.

Foods or recipes made and created by relatives can influence our food choices. In fact, most people make more than 200 daily decisions related to food, reports the University of Georgia Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

Taste is the top reason people select a food, followed by cost, EFNEP reports. The color, texture, smell and flavor can contribute to a person’s desire to eat or try a food.

Remember, healthy food can still taste good.

Here are some tips from UGA Extension for making healthier versions of the foods you love:

* Use non-stick sprays and non-stick pans.

* Cook vegetables in low-sodium bouillon or broth instead of butter, margarine or fat back.

* Use 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg.

* Use evaporated skim milk instead of cream.

* Use oil instead of butter, solid margarine or shortening.

* In baked goods, use 1/4 less fat than the recipe requires.

* Make gravy and sauces without fat. Thicken the broth or skimmed pan juices with cornstarch mixed with a small amount of cold liquid stirred slowly into the hot liquid.

* Cut salt in recipes gradually by 1/4 to 1/2.

* Choose lower-sodium versions of products such as canned vegetables, soups, soy sauce and ketchup.

* Add vanilla or cinnamon to give a sweet taste with less added sugar.

* Try cutting sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods. Do not cut sugar in cakes or yeast breads.

* Use herbs and spices. Don’t use garlic salt, onion salt or lemon pepper.

* Replace up to half of the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour.

* Add fruit to muffins, pancakes, salads and desserts.

* Add crushed whole grain cereal to meatballs, meatloaf and as a topping for casseroles.

Sandra Stringer is a nutrition educator with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. She may be contacted at 770-535-8290. Her column appears monthly on Wednesdays and on

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