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Enjoy Thanksgiving with healthy eating in mind

Nov. 19, 2012 |

SPRINGFIELD – The Thanksgiving season is upon us and as we give thanks for all the wonderful things in our lives, we sometimes forget to be grateful for the prospect of good health. Each day provides us with an opportunity to make small changes that can lead us to a healthier life. One way to begin down the path to a healthier you is eating a healthier diet, even during the holidays. What you eat and how you prepare it can help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. The American Heart Association urges Americans to control risk factors including poor cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess weight. These risk factors can be addressed by preparing tasty dishes without overdoing the salt, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat. Studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of cardiovascular events, including stroke may be prevented if risk factors are controlled. While preparing your holiday meal, incorporate these tips from the American Heart/American Stroke Association. They are simple and you won't compromise on the delicious flavor. Be Sweet on Sweet Potatoes – Skip the white mashed potatoes and go sweet. Sweet potatoes are a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber that can make a tasty side dish or dessert. Stuff with more veggies and less bread – Opt for less bread in your stuffing and add more onions, celery, vegetables, or fruits such as dried cranberries or apples to make a lower calorie version of the old standby. Try using whole wheat bread in order to make it an even healthier option. Sacrifice fat, not flavor – Use low-fat buttermilk or low-sodium chicken stock in place of cream or whole milk in dishes like mashed potatoes and whipped sweet potatoes. You'll achieve a creamy consistency and loads a flavor, minus the unnecessary fat and calories. Be Fresh – Most sodium in the diet comes from packaged, processed foods. Go with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned and limit the amount of salt while you cook. If you are using packaged foods, look for the Heart Check mark and you'll instantly know that food has been certified by the American Heart Association to meet guidelines for heart-healthy foods. Steam and mash – Try sneaking in more, low calorie vegetables by mashing or pureeing steamed or boiled cauliflower with fat-free milk. It's a flavorful substitute for mashed potatoes and can help balance an otherwise potato rich meal. When it's time for dessert, enjoy this low-fat, delicious recipe from the American Heart Association: Berry-Topped Pudding Pie in Meringue-Nut Crust Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown Serves eight Ingredients Canola or corn oil for pie pan 2 large egg whites 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sugar 3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped 1 small package fat-free, sugar-free instant lemon or vanilla pudding mix, prepared with 2 cups cold fat-free milk 12 ounces fresh berries or other fruit, sliced if needed 1/2 cup fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed (optional) Directions • Preheat the oven to 300°F. Pour a small amount of oil onto a paper towel and lightly wipe the bottom and side of an 8- or 9-inch pie pan. • In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer beat the egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt on medium speed until foamy. With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar in a slow steady stream, until stiff peaks form. (The peaks shouldn't fold over when the beater is lifted.) Very gently fold in 1/2 cup of the nuts. • Using a flexible spatula or rubber scraper spread the meringue over the bottom and up the side of the pie pan and onto the lip of the pan, but not over the edge of the pan. Sprinkle the bottom the pan with the remaining nuts. • Bake for 50 minutes, or until the meringue is firm and lightly browned. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely, at least two hours. • Using the package directions, prepare the pudding. Spread over the cooled crust. Arrange the fruit decoratively over the pudding. Top with the whipped topping. Note: In warm weather, meringues will get gummy after a few days, so it's best to serve this dessert within 24 hours.

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