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Eating better in the new year doesnt mean your taste buds have to suffer
Moderation, exercises and a few small changes are all you need to be healthier
Chicken Pot Pie can be made more healthy with just a few simple changes to the recipe. Better eating habits in the new year doesn't mean restricting yourself to celery sticks. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

This time of year, instead of a source of nourishment, many people with New Year's resolutions fresh on their brains see food as the edible enemy of their efforts to live healthier.

Such should not be the case, experts say.

"Avoiding all treats that you enjoy is usually not realistic or necessary long term. As long as we don't make guilty pleasures our day-to-day choices, we can still enjoy them in moderation," said Mindy Bell, Northeast Georgia Medical Center bariatric program dietitian.

"Enjoying them in moderation can sometimes help us to feel like we're not on a restrictive diet that is destined to crash as soon as we ‘cheat.' If you know you'll be enjoying a higher-calorie treat, try to keep your other meals on the lighter side to balance out the calories."

"Try getting in some extra activity as well, such as walking, to offset the extra calories you'll be taking in. In general, limit treat choices that you keep on hand in your house to one or two per week."

Even foods that may seem like guilty pleasures can become healthier dining opportunities with a few tweaks to the recipes.

"For healthier cooking, the goal is usually to reduce fat, sugar and salt, or to add more wholesome ingredients such as extra fruits and vegetables," Bell said.

"Use plain, nonfat yogurt to replace sour cream in casseroles and soups. In general, when you're trying to cook healthier and reduce calories, it's best to stay away from large amounts of hard fats — butter, lard, etc. Use small amounts of soft, tub margarine or olive oil and canola oil to season foods like vegetables."

"Usually, one to two teaspoons is all that is needed to add substantial flavor."

Even a comfort food, which is often laden with an abundance of cream and butter, like chicken pot pie can be more health conscious when you lose some of the usual fat and add extra vegetables. Instead of using a cream of chicken soup base, or even adding milk, start with a fat-free, low sodium chicken broth to build the flavor for your filling. The mixture can be thickened by adding a few tablespoons of flour.

"Since most people either need to watch their blood pressure, or have a family history of high blood pressure, try to reduce salt in the foods you eat as well. Taste your food before salting and for flavor, use salt-free herb and spice blends and marinades such as Mrs. Dash," Bell said.

"Garlic and onion powder, as well as salsa, peppers and chili powder add a lot of flavor to meats and vegetables as well. Use flavored vinegars, lemon juice and sugar-free preserves as the base for sauces and salad dressings."

Even sweet treats like cookies, cakes and pies can be more figure friendly.

"For baked goods, use fruit purees like apple sauce or mashed bananas to replace half the fat and oil. Try to incorporate whole wheat flour to replace half the white flour in baked goods," Bell said.

"Add extra flavor to sweet treats by using vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg and other ‘sweet' spices. Try to avoid large amounts of sugar in cooking.

You can substitute artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, to replace sugar in baked goods, however, think about the types of foods that you eat as well."

"Be selective about the treats you choose — try to keep your portions small. Particularly with rich foods, a little goes a long way. Savor the first few bites and you'll probably find that it doesn't take much to satisfy."



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