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Wilburn: Give your holiday food a healthy makeover
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Feel weighed down after a little too much merriment during the holidays? Whether you're watching your waistline, your wallet or your health, some simple substitutions for the fats, sodium and sugars in your favorite dishes can make them healthier.

This year, give some of the following ideas a try for favorite holiday foods:

Gravy: If you do not have a gravy fat-separator cup, stick the gravy in the freezer for about 15 minutes and skim the hardened fat off the surface with a spoon. This will save 77 calories and 6.5 grams of fat per Ú cup. Skim the hardened fat off of chilled soups and stews, as well, before reheating.

Mashed potatoes: Use 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese instead of 1 teaspoon of salt. Parmesan cheese contains 186 mg sodium in 2 tablespoons while 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mg sodium. Try adding black or white pepper, garlic powder (not garlic salt) and dried parsley for flavoring without the sodium. Try this tip for other recipes, too.

Green bean casserole makeover: Omit the cream soup. For each pound of green beans, add 1/4 cup half-and-half, 1 cup sliced carrots, 2 tablespoons minced dried onions and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Combine and bake at 350 F until bubbly, about 30 minutes. To further reduce fat, calories and sodium, omit fried onion rings, too.

Whipped topping: Combine 1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk and 1/3 cup water in a small mixing bowl and beat until foamy. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon juice to the mixture and beat until stiff. Serve immediately.

A ‘healthy' dessert?

One of my favorite foods during the holidays and any time of the year is pumpkin pie. It is one of the few desserts that can actually be good for you — if it is prepared with healthy ingredients.

The attached recipe can be made in less than 5 minutes, my kind of recipe. Not only does this eliminate the extra work of baking a crust, but it also cuts down on the added fat. Using sugar-free vanilla pudding mix and whipped topping will decrease the amount of sugar. Enjoy the wonderful flavor and health benefits of pumpkin!

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.

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