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Mon., Oct. 5
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Holiday meals can have healthy options


Creativity can save calories.

That is the message being sent to north country residents this holiday season. As people plan and prepare traditional meals with all of the fixings, trays of holiday cookies and dessert buffets, Jefferson County Public Health Service registered dietitian Jill Joyce said you can satisfy taste buds without packing on the pounds.

“If you really think of food as medicine, it can change your relationship with food,” Mrs. Joyce said, in an agency nutrition class Monday. “Every cell in our body is constantly turning over, and to rebuild them they use parts of what you eat. What do you want your body to run on? You are what you eat.”

Instead of placing sugary sweets in the middle of the table, Mrs. Joyce suggested creating a Christmas tree made out of fresh green broccoli, red tomatoes for decorations, carrot sticks for the bottom, and perhaps a yellow pepper for the star. A Santa hat made out of berries, or a candy cane-shaped fruit or vegetable tray could also be a holiday hit.

While people should be mindful of calories, they don’t need to eliminate all of their favorite holiday treats and other foods, she said. It’s all about bringing a smile to the table — a smiley face made of the right portions. About half of the plate should be vegetables, one quarter protein, and one quarter whole-grain carbohydrates.

Mrs. Joyce suggested substituting some holiday favorites such as homemade mashed potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes, calorie-loaded alcoholic beverages with water or cranberry-flavored diet beverages, plain nuts instead of ones that are chocolate covered, and herbs and spices instead of rich sauces.

When reached by telephone Monday, chef Janet M. “Boo” Wells, of the Farm House Kitchen in Sackets Harbor, said while nutritious options could be offered at holiday meals, people shouldn’t count any food out altogether.

“Food is love; our family and our times together often revolve around food,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to change that. Not being a mindless eater is the most important thing. Mostly, it’s trying everything, but not having a portion of everything.”

Instead of treats, there can also be tricks to get people to eat healthier foods, she said. She said she got people in her own house to love roasted brussel sprouts, when she told children they were an adult-food. That made them more curious, and after they tried them, they have been hooked, she said.

Mrs. Joyce echoed a similar scenario, and said a great option for chocolate brownies are to use black beans.

“Don’t knock it until you try it,” she said.

For additional tips and nutrition information, visit

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