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Season’s Eatings Don’t Have to Be Unhealthy…

November 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, News, Weekly Columns

( That ham hock you’ll boil into your collard greens for seasoning will float 21 grams of fat into your otherwise healthy vegetables.

And the smoked pork neck bones you use to season your green beans are just as much the villain, adding 292 calories and 1,000 grams of salt to your food, says Roniece Weaver, a Orlando-based dietician and co-author of the book, “Slim Down Sister.”

“We’ve added so much fat, salt and sugar until we don’t know what good food really tastes like,” Weaver told

As you spread the table for Thanksgiving and other holidays to come, Weaver and other food experts offer simple suggestions to help curb the fat, sweet and salty elements in the recipes that spell trouble for so many black people already struggling with a myriad of diseases.

First of all, it’s okay to cut back on the sugar. Cakes, pies and cobblers are good ol’ family favorites, but many can be made using Splenda Blend –a combination of pure sugar and the Splenda sweetner, Weaver said.

She said she uses Splenda Blend in her butternut squash cake with ginger nutmeg glaze. One regular slice of the cake is about 250 calories. The butternut squash cake, which will be featured in Weaver’s upcoming cookbook published by the American Cancer Society, can be a substitute for the decadent carrot cakes that often make their way to the holiday dinner table. A full slice of carrot cake has about 450 calories per slice, Weaver said.

Dieticians also suggest reducing the calories and fat in many desserts by using skim milk or 1 percent milk, Egg Beaters instead of full eggs and margarine instead of real butter.

Still, if you want to take in the sweets, and you just can’t substitute the ingredients, you can follow another suggestion – eat smaller portions, not just on sweets, but everything.

“Use a sectioned plate, and place your starches in the smallest section,” Weaver says. “And it’s okay to have a little white space on the plate. It doesn’t have to be completely full.”

At Amy and Lou’s Restaurant in Chicago, cooks have come up with some starch substitutes for holiday meals for those who are health conscious.

“We offer a vegetable rice pilaf,” says Delores Reynolds, owner of the 65-year-old establishment. It’s a rice pilaf with carrots and peas, she said.

Some customers opt for the rice dish instead of macaroni and cheese. It would be difficult to substitute the ingredients in macaroni and cheese and get the same flavor, because “when you want macaroni and cheese, you want real macaroni and cheese,” Reynolds said.

She expects the restaurant will prepare at least 75 turkey dinners for customers who will take the food home and lay out for their families. Other customers just come in to get the side dishes, Reynolds told

For years now, she’s been making changes to the menu to address health concerns of her customers.

“When we took over the restaurant 17 years ago, one of the first things we did was take the bacon out of the vegetables,” she said. Instead, they season vegetables without using meat, and all of the oils used in the restaurant are free of trans fats.

Aunt Rosa Lee’s Mississippi Soul Food in Los Angeles made similar adjustments, said manager Lee Lee Scott.

“We don’t use pork or other meat in our vegetables,” Scott said while preparing dozens of Thanksgiving meals for customers. “We’ve come to realize that a lot of folks are vegetarians.”

The restaurant still uses regular ingredients on its popular desserts, Scott told, but they are preparing to offer sugar-free cakes and cobblers.

Regardless of the adjustments made to the menu or ingredients, some things will usually be true for most families, said Weaver, who also runs a community-based nutrition education center.

“The bottom line is you’re going to eat over the holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and your anniversary. But you can’t eat like it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving 365 days a year,” she said. “If you eat more than the usual on a holiday, the next day, start over again eating the right way. It’s important that you don’t eat like its Christmas or Thanksgiving the other 361 days of the year.”

Written By Denise Stewart

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