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Healthy holiday eating

Cooking tips to make the season bright and non-fattening


December 17, 2008

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    The holiday season is upon us, and nothing seems to bring comfort from the stress of travels and holiday shopping more than the ungodly amounts of deep fried turkeys, gingerbread cookies, fruitcakes, fudge and other holiday foods at hand.
    “People like to get lazy and fat during the wintertime,” Jayson Cole, head chef of the former Blue Moon restaurant, said. “That’s why they have to go to the gym after the holidays … that’s why it’s good to eat light, work out and stay fit.”
    Fortunately, there are ways to have a holly, jolly holiday without the "ho-ho-holy cow! What did I eat?" waistline.
    
    Stay away from fried foods.
    “Try grilling or broiling foods instead of deep frying them,” Cole said.
    One of his favorite recipes: Make a rosemary marinade out of white wine, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary, and use a little water to dilute. Marinate Cornish hens in the mix overnight, then throw them on the grill. It’s a great alternative to dishes like deep-fried turkey, and can be paired with grilled veggies and oven-roasted root vegetables (both pack a lot of good-for-you vitamins).
    
    Avoid sugar overload.
    “Everyone does massive intakes of sugar over the holidays, then they crash,” Cole said.
    When possible, try cutting sugar in half, or using alternatives like maple sugar (it’s not as bad for you as refined sugars) or faux-sugar sweeteners like Equal and Splenda.
    
    Use vinaigrettes.

    “A lot of cream sauces can be made into vinaigrettes,” Cole said. “It’s a lot healthier … 'spa' foods are becoming more popular, like marinating and grilling fish and baking chicken.”
    
    Go au naturale.
    “It used to be that, in the early 1940s, people ate all the fat they wanted to, and never caught diseases … I firmly believe as a chef that all these syndromes you’re hearing about are happening now that they’re putting hormones and preservatives into food,” Cole said.
    “People are getting sick, so chefs are getting into cooking healthier.”
    Most grocers offer a small organic section in the produce department. For a bit of an adventure, try making the short trek to Savannah to visit the Fresh Market on Abercorn. While organic foods may be a bit pricier than not, the health benefits are worth the slightly larger price tag.
    
    Eat regularly.
    “It’s best to eat three times a day, eat little portions, and stick to light eating,” Cole said. “People are not doing that, and I believe that’s why the country is in the state of obesity that it is today.”
    Avoid fast foods.
    With the hustle and bustle of traveling to visit relatives, finishing last minute shopping and all the other little fun errands that cloud the holidays, swinging through a drive-through window may seem like the quickest way to satisfy a grumbling stomach. The reality is fast food is often laden with grease, sugars, salt and unwanted calories, leading to a crash later.
    Try stashing a cooler bag filled with veggies and a deli meat sandwich in the car for a cheap, quick meal. Or, if you have time to run home in the midst of last-minute sales, Cole suggests this favorite healthy, pick-me-up dish: Pastas tossed in olive oil.
    “If I ever feel tired and sluggish, I eat that,” Cole said. “It cleanses you, and gives you energy.”
    
    For recipe ideas, Cole suggests checking out magazines like Bon Appetit. There are also many resources on the Web — try www.food.com for hundreds of recipes from Emeril to Paula. The best part is, they’re free to browse, and can even be printed out in recipe-card format to refer to later. Another site that offers tips for healthier living is www.livehealthygeorgia.org. This site offers advice for healthier eating, getting fit and even smoking cessation, as well as a wealth of other health-conscious information.

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