Leave the butter out

If you read this blog regularly, you know that we’re trying to reduce the amount of saturated fats that we eat at our house. This includes butter. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/the-butter-dish-is-empty/

But, when teaching about food safety, I still get the question….should butter be kept in the refrigerator or is it safe on the counter?

Obviously there are some foods that are more prone to making us sick than others. Foods like meat, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish, dairy products, baked potatoes, garlic and oil mixtures, cooked plant food, raw sprouts, tofu and added more recently to this list are leafy greens, cut melons, cut tomatoes and mixtures of cut tomatoes fit into the “risky” group. These items should be kept in the refrigerator.

Common sense (and research) shows that other foods may be “less risky”. These are things like sugar, crackers, uncooked pasta and rice, uncut vegetables and fruits, chips and some baked goods.

What about butter?  Since it’s a dairy food does it have to be kept in the fridge?

Although it is did come from milk and could be considered a dairy product, butter has a high fat content and low water activity. These are not the right conditions for bacteria to grow. So, it’s not risky (at least food safety wise) to leave at room temperature.

Saying that, there is another problem: rancidity.

If butter is left out at room temperature for several days, the flavor can turn rancid.  What is rancidity? This is a type of spoilage caused by a chemical reaction in the fat. This gives your butter that “off” smell or flavor. Keeping butter cold slows this spoilage process down.

If you’re like me and use butter very infrequently you may want to keep the butter in the freezer, but even freezing doesn’t stop quality deterioration completely.  Butter will keep for six to nine months in the freezer, if it’s wrapped properly and held below zero degrees.

Also, in the freezer it’s out-of-site and out-of-mind.  If it’s not setting on the counter next to the toaster I’m less likely to use it!

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Compare:

Spread Serving Calories Fat (g) Sat Fat (g)
Butter 1 Tbsp 100 12 7
Light margarine 1 Tbsp 50 5 .7
Almond butter 1 Tbsp 100 9 .7
Apple sauce 1 Tbsp 20 0 0
Peanut butter 1 Tbsp 94 8 1.5
  • Butter, 1 tablespoon, 100 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat
  • Light margarine, 1 tablespoon, 50 calories, 5 grams of fat, .7 grams of saturated fat
  • Almond butter, 1 tablespoon, 100 calories, 9 grams of fat, .7 grams of saturated fat
  • Apple sauce, 1 tablespoon, 20 calories, 0 g fat
  • Peanut butter, 1 tablespoon, 94 calories, 18 g of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat

 

 

Reader questions onion safety

Question from a reader:  “What information do you have about the idea that onions pose a risk if left in the refrigerator after cutting?  It is something most of us have always done and now there is information floating out there in the internet world that this is not a safe practice.  Thanks for any insight!”

Don’t you just love the internet?  All of these “tales” can cause us to worry about everything!  According to Snopes, this one has been going around since 2008 and there isn’t any scientific proof to support this statement.

Nothing mysterious happens to onions once they are in the refrigerator. Like all fruits and vegetables, once cut, onions should be kept in the refrigerator (National Center for Home Food Preservation and National Onion Association).  I’ll refer you to another article I wrote about Keeping Fruits and Vegetables Safe.

Once a fruit or vegetable has been cut, the barrier to the outside world has been broken and the plant’s natural defenses have been compromised. This opens the food up to the environment. Plus, the moisture and natural sugars in fruits and vegetables help create a great place for bacteria to grow. Refrigerator temperatures, on the other hand, can help slow this development of bacteria. The biggest problem with onions in the refrigerator is the odor.  Be sure to wrap well or keep in a sealed container.

But don’t store your uncut onions in the refrigerator. Whole unpeeled onions should be kept in a cool, dry, well ventilated place. Don’t store them in a plastic bag. Sweet onions tend to have higher water content and are more susceptible to bruising and will have a shorter shelf life than yellow onions. Once peeled or cut, onions should be stored (well wrapped or covered) in the refrigerator at 41 degrees or below.  A peeled or cut onion will be of good quality for 7 in the refrigerator.

If you have a few too many chopped onions they can be frozen. I have frozen leftover chopped  onions (without blanching) for a short time, they are not crisp when thawed, but work great for cooking. Be sure to wrap well.  Use within 3-6 months for best quality. For longer freezer storage, The National Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu) recommends they be blanched and cooled before freezing.

One final tip: according to the National Onion Association (www.onion-usa.org) it’s the sulfuric compounds  in the onions that cause us to cry when cutting onions. To help reduce this,they recommend chilling the onion before cutting and cutting into the root end of the onion last.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Sushi Safety

Sushi safety.…….say that three times fast!

Over the past several decades, sushi has become very popular in the United States.  It is now common to hear folks going out for sushi,  bringing it home from the grocery store or even making it at home. Sushi business is worth over $2.2 billion in the US and grocery store sushi sales are booming according to Fortune magazine. Overall sushi sales have grown by 30% in the past decade. But, is this sushi safe to eat?

First off…let’s set the record straight…sushi isn’t just raw fish. Sushi literally means “seasoned rice” and this rice is the key ingredient.  However, the term sushi is generically used to describe bite-sized pieces of raw fish, shellfish, cooked fish or vegetables and other ingredients on a bed of seasoned rice or simply the consumption of raw fish in the Japanese style.

Sushi is one of those foods that can be risky —especially for people such as children, elderly, the immune suppressed and pregnant women who are already more susceptible to a foodborne illness.

If sushi has been prepared according to regulations of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and local and state health regulations it should be safe.  These are some concerns and things to keep in mind when ordering, making or eating sushi:

UNCOOKED SEAFOOD. Raw animal products may contain bacteria.  Cooking seafood to 145 degrees can really reduce the risk of food borne illness. Safer sushi is made with cooked products such as cooked fish, crab, or tempura shrimp. Or it skips raw protein and just utilizes raw veggies.

CROSS CONTAMINATION.  Just like any other food,  the fish or other ingredients in sushi could be contaminated at any time along the food chain—from the fishermen to the processor to the sushi chef to the consumer. Without the cooking step, there is just more risk and more chance of contamination. The raw seafood  and other ingredients should be kept at 41 degrees or below and cooked items over 135 degrees.

SUSHI RICE. Cooked rice should be kept at refrigerator temperatures unless it has the appropriate amount of acid (usually rice vinegar) added. An experienced sushi chef knows how to make rice correctly so it reaches a safe pH.  If you’re doing this at home, don’t guess about the pH and let the rice stay at room temperature for more than two hours.

PARASITES. While many people think “fresh is best”,   this may not be the key with sushi fish.  Fish to be eaten raw or partially cooked  should have been  frozen to destroy any parasites that may be naturally in the fish.   This is not something that can be done in a home freezer—the temperatures need to be very cold for a specific amount of time.  Good sushi restaurants purchase their fish from suppliers that properly freeze their fish. Not all fish are prone to parasites. Among the fish that do NOT need to be frozen to destroy parasites are:  molluscan shellfish, many species of tuna including yellowfin (ahi), bluefin, bigeye, albacore, or blackfin and some farm-raised salmon.  Ask questions if purchasing fish to be eat raw at home, insure it has been properly frozen.  Proper cooking will also destroy these parasites. Remember that the freezing does not destroy all bacteria or viruses that may be on the fish. Careful handling after freezing and thawing is still very important.

POOR PERSONAL HYGIENE.  Watch the sushi chefs.  How often do they wash their hands or sanitize the cloths they are using?  Are they wearing gloves when they make the sushi?  Boards and utensils should be cleaned and sanitized frequently, especially when preparing uncooked products such as raw sashimi and then cooked products like tempura shrimp.

READY TO EAT SUSHI. Check the “sell by” dates of sushi purchased at the grocery store. Make sure the sushi has been kept cold after it was made and select only packages on display that are deep in the cooler or display case.  Take-out sushi should be eaten on the day of purchase.  Keep sushi cold on the way home and refrigerate until use.  Prepared sushi or sushi on a buffet should be kept below 40 degrees.

HIGH SODIUM CONTENT. Sushi can contain ingredients that are very high in sodium such as fish eggs, artificial “krab” meat, and various Asian condiments that are very high in sodium. If you or your loved ones are concerned about blood pressure you have to bear this in mind and help fit these foods into your daily eating plan. California style sushi without sauce is always a go-to item or you can ask the chef to make a roll with cooked shrimp and leave off the sauces.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

 

Wonder Soup

If you haven’t made Wonder Soup you’ve missed a treat.

What’s Wonder Soup?

My sister calls rotisserie chicken Wonder Chicken.  I think because these readily available, already-cooked, chickens make a quick and easy dinner.  Thus, a wonder!  I was at her home once and couldn’t believe how after dinner she just pitched the leftover bones along with the packaging.  She missed the chance to get another meal out of her Wonder Chicken… Wonder Soup.

I guess you have to be a little obsessed with saving money and eliminating food waste to want to make Wonder Soup.  Also, you need to take a little time to cook, which you may not have if you’ve just grabbed a Wonder Chicken for dinner.  But I think one of the best parts of a rotisserie chicken is the Wonder Soup.

Several years ago I wrote a series of articles for this blog on rotisserie chicken:

To summarize:

  • these chickens are usually sold by the “piece” not by the pound—it may look like they are all the same size, but the starting weights (and thusly the net weights) of rotisserie chickens vary.
  • costs also vary from store-to-store and the cost does not appear based on the size of the chicken.
  • one chicken usually feeds 4-6 people.  On the average, a 3 pound roasted chicken should yield 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds of boneless meat.
  • seasonings and added ingredients on rotisserie chicken also vary from store to store.
  • the nutritional basics of protein, fat, calories and cholesterol in a rotisserie chicken are similar to a home-roasted chicken. The major difference is in the sodium content in a rotisserie chicken. A 4-ounce serving of rotisserie chicken contains about 750 mg of sodium (compared to 72 mg in a home-roasted unsalted chicken).

Obviously the soup made from the rotisserie chicken will have more added sodium than one started from scratch, so use salt sparingly or do not add any more in the cooking process. It’s hard to measure the amount of sodium in the finished soup product, and you have less control when making soup from a rotisserie chicken than if you purchased an unseasoned chicken   I have found that the seasonings are usually sufficient in a small pot of Wonder Soup..

To make the soup you will use a two step process. First you make the broth and then you turn the broth into a soup by adding scraps of cooked chickens and vegetables.

Here is how I made Wonder Soup: I used the skin and bones from the chicken as well as the drippings in the take-out container.  I covered the bones with water (about 4 cups) and cooked on the stovetop.  Don’t add too much water, you really don’t have lots of meat to work with.   I simmered the bones for about an hour, drained and picked any remaining meat from them. If time allows I chill the broth to remove any excess fat that may rise to the surface, but usually it’s not much.  I added leftover meat and some mixed vegetables and simmered until tender.

Voila…WONDER SOUP!

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

 

Real-World Strategies for Dealing with Office Treats

A couple of weeks ago a co-worker sent this email to everyone in the office:  “There are three types of pie and a can of whipped cream in the fridge!  Pumpkin, Apple, and Pecan, please help me get rid of them!!”

This is what’s being called: food dumping. Like most people, I’ve been guilty of food dumping, but also and I’ve also been the victim.

Food dumping is when you bring party leftovers, unwanted food gifts or just extra treats into the office break room. Sometimes it’s not really unwelcome food but a special treat for your co-workers or a neighboring office as a holiday gift. No matter why it’s there, it seems most office break rooms are filled with food this time of year.

First off I guess I need to congratulate my co-worker and all “food dumpers” for realizing that they really don’t want all that extra food sitting around their house.  But this doesn’t encourage or help your coworkers to eat more healthful.

OK, I don’t want to be a real humbug about this and say that no one should have special holiday goodies.  Being realistic, I know it’s going to happen. What can you do if you really are trying to be heathful?

Here are a couple thoughts to help you take control of the situation:

  • Encourage a “no dumping” policy at the office. If people do want to share special recipes or treat, perhaps set up a schedule or calendar of when each person or office is welcomed to bring something. This may eliminate the overflowing trays and possibly waste.
  • OUT OF SIGHT-OUT OF MIND. If they MUST bring candies and cookies, ask that they be hidden or at least covered.
  • If the snacks and goodies sitting around the break room are just too tempting for you, one solution is to try to avoid that room altogether.
  • If you’re co-workers aren’t on board, at least you can control your office and your desk. Have healthy snacks in your desk so you won’t be starved and tempted when you see a large plate of treats hanging out by the copier.
  • Start your day off right with a healthy breakfast so you won’t be as tempted as you might be when you head for the second cup of coffee. Keep the breakfast light and healthy so if you do want to snack there will be a place for it in your healthy diet.
  • Keep a pair of exercise shoes in the office to take walking breaks.

One more thing, I couldn’t let the idea of food sitting around go without mentioning some food safety issues:

  • Perishable foods should be kept at room temperature for no more than two hours. If it’s out longer than that the food should be pitched.
  • Label foods with ingredients—especially nuts and gluten—for those with allergies and intolerances.
  • Label foods with dates, too. This will eliminate “mystery foods” in a couple of days. Most perishable items should be pitched after four days.

There may be other options instead of food dumping. Could you share food gifts with charitable institutions, nursing homes or women’s shelters that may not have any treats? Unfortunately, due to food safety issues, many may not be able to accept homemade or opened food items.  Think about what foods would freeze well for later when they would be more appreciated and enjoyed.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

How NOT to thaw that turkey

If you’ve followed my posts you know that I’ve worked for the Cooperative Extension System for almost 40 years.  I remember when the phone rang-off-the-hook this time of year with various questions about thawing and cooking that Thanksgiving turkey. Calls to the office have lightened with telephone “help” hotlines and the internet, but the unique and potentially unsafe methods that people are trying to thaw a turkey haven’t changed—maybe they’re getting worse.

Here are some of my favorites from over the years. Remember: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! These are just for your amusement and in the “you want to do WHAT?” with that turkey category https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thanksgiving-quiz/.

Thawing the turkey in the laundry sink for three days. WRONG. As the turkey thaws, the outside would be within the temperature danger zone for a long period of time allowing potentially dangerous bacteria to multiply.

Thawing the turkey in the garage or in the trunk of the car.  RISKY. Even if it’s cold outside there is no guarantee that the temperature within the garage or trunk will stay below the required 40 degrees to allow the turkey to defrost safely.

In the dryer. DON’T EVEN GO THERE! Don’t ask me how this worked—or if it did—I just can imagine how a 20 pound turkey sounded going around—and –around. THUMP THUMP THUMP.  The warm temperatures in the dryer would just be perfect for that bacterial incubation—not to mention the mess and clean-up.

Putting in a cooler with ice blocks—this might work if you are very conscientious and keep checking the temperature and changing the ice. Remember: the inside of the cooler needs to be kept below 40 degrees the whole time. This could take several days.

My ultimate favorite—shared by a colleague—someone put their turkey in the toilet and flushed it every ½ hour.  I really know what they were thinking here, the recommendations for thawing in water say to submerge and change the water every ½ hour. BUT, there are so many other PROBLEMS with this scenario.

The SAFEST way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator where the temperature can be kept below 40 degrees F.  Place the turkey in the refrigerator in its wrapper—unopened—on a tray or plate to catch any drippings. It will take approximately 24 hours for each five pounds of turkey. So your 20 pound turkey will need to be in the refrigerator for at least four days. Once thawed, your turkey can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking. It is a good idea to take your turkey out of the freezer on Saturday before Thanksgiving. Of course you can always buy a fresh turkey and skip the defrosting step.

For faster thawing you can use the cold water method. Submerge the frozen turkey in its unopened original wrapper in cold water.  The key to this method is that you need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the outside cold. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound—so for a 20 pound turkey you’re changing keeping an eye on it and changing the water every half hour for 10 hours. This method does work well if you the turkey needs just a little more thawing time at the last minute.

You can defrost a smaller turkey in a microwave oven.  To defrost unwrap and place in a baking dish.  It will take 3-8 minutes per pound on 30%-50% power or the defrost setting. Check your manufacture’s book for specifics with your microwave. The important thing to remember if you defrost in the microwave is that you need to finish the cooking right away. This can be done in the microwave or transfer it over to the regular oven.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Blowing out the candles

This may seem gross…but have you ever thought about germs from people blowing out birthday candles? Or worse yet, accidentally spitting on a birthday cake while blowing out the candles.

Researchers from Clemson looked at this topic and published in the Journal of Food Research.  Their research shows that blowing out candles on a birthday cake does deposit bacteria onto the cake. They found that blowing out candles on a cake increased the amount of bacteria on the cake’s frosting by 14 times.

This however does not necessarily make you 14 times more likely to get sick from eating the birthday cake.  It really depends upon the type of bacteria.

In an article in The Atlantic www.theatlantic.com (July 2017)  even the lead author of this study,  Dr. Paul Dawson, Professor of Food Safety at Clemson,  says that he doesn’t think bacteria from blowing out birthday candles is a big health concern and your chance of getting sick from a birthday cake is probably very minimal.  So breathe easy.

The handling of the cake itself is probably riskier than the candle blowing.  Did the person decorating or cutting the cake use standard safe food procedures? Did they wash their hands before handling the cake after using the rest room? Perhaps that person was sick when they were decorating the cake. Did they lick frosting off their fingers and then go back to decorating?  Or was there accidental bacteria transfer from raw meat or poultry onto the cake?  Things happen in kitchens, especially when people are rushed or feeding crowds that they aren’t used to doing.

A final word of caution:  if you know the birthday celebrant is ill—give them their own personal cake with a candle and don’t share those germs with the other party goers.

Reference: Journal of Food Research,  Vol 6, No 4 (2017) Bacterial Transfer Associated with Blowing Out Candles on a Birthday Cake

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

See our “Better Treats for Birthday” post here for 4 scrumptious desserts that are easier and better than cake especially for school classrooms.

 

Early November Checklist

As we move into the month of November, our minds start thinking about Thanksgiving and all the related foods and details that need planning. Here are a couple things to think about early this month. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thinking-about-turkey/

  • Is there room in your refrigerator for that turkey you’re going to thaw? It takes 24 hours for each pound of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator –that means if you have a 20 pound turkey you’ll need to get it into the refrigerator at least five days before you want to cook it.  This might be time to get that refrigerator cleaned out.  The same goes for the freezer, there are usually sales on whole turkeys just before or just after the holiday. Do you have space for an extra turkey at a great price? Even if you’re going to buy a fresh turkey, you’re still going to need refrigerator space for a day or two. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/three-turkey-tips/  
  • Another somewhat related question…..Can you use that year-old turkey in your freezer for the holiday meal?   Technically, YES. Frozen turkeys will keep for a long time if held below zero degrees. They’re usually packed in air- and water-resistant plastic wraps that help prevent loss of quality during freezer storage. The general recommendation for freezer storage is one year, if the food has been frozen that whole time. This is a quality recommendation and not a food safety deadline. I like to tell folks to thaw and cook that year-old early in the month as a “trial run” because if it’s a year-old you probably haven’t cooked a whole turkey in a long time. This will give you practice and then purchase a new turkey for the holiday.  It isn’t necessary for safety, but you really want the best quality for your holiday meal. Remember FIFO—first in, first out. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/how-old-is-that-turkey/
  • Find the food thermometer.  You may have an old meat thermometer rolling around in the back of your silverware drawer—these can be put in the food inside the oven. They work better than nothing.  A better bet would be to invest in a new instant-read thermometer. Digital ones are great and can be used for many different types of foods.
  • Do you have an adequate roasting pan? Or gravy defatting cup? 

With these things out of the way, you can get on with the rest of the planning for your holiday meal. Sometimes when you get in the store you see so many ideas for side dishes, desserts, appetizers, and beverages that you can get overwhelmed and feel unprepared or make excessive purchases. It is a good idea to plan your menu, research and print your recipes, and stick to a shopping list.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Germy Water Bottles

Many people are conscientiously carrying refillable water bottles.  One key positive here is that drinking water  on a regular basis gives the  body the fluid it needs to keep itself healthy https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/hydrate-for-health/.  Also using a refillable bottle helps keep more waste from plastic water bottles out of the trash. There’s also the cost savings of refilling your own bottle compared to purchasing bottled water whenever you’re thirsty.

But the question is:  how often do you need to wash these refillable cups and bottles?  This would be of even more concern if you put something in the bottle other than plain water—perhaps a sports drink, flavor packets or made infused water with cucumbers or lemons.

A recent study and on-line report in Treadmill Reviews http://www.treadmillreviews.ca/water-bottle-germs-revealed/  says that unwashed reusable water bottle could harbor bacteria.  Their team swabbed the lids of reusable water bottles and had the samples tested at an independent lab to determine the types and levels of bacteria present.

They looked at 12 different bottles and four different types. Each water bottle had been used by an athlete for a week and not washed.   The samples showed that these water bottles each had a unique combination of bacteria. Not all were “bad” germs, but some were the types known to cause illnesses.

The type of bottle made a difference. Slide-top bottles harbored the most bacteria.  This makes sense because these bottles have direct contact with the mouth and more nooks and crannies for bacteria to grow.  Bottles with squeeze-tops and screw-tops respectively had fewer bacteria.  Bottles with straw tops contained the least amount of bacteria.

The folks at Treadmill Review admit that they are not researchers or microbiologists.  Even though this topic could probably use a little more scientific research methods and the types of bacteria studied a little more, it does give us all some “food for thought”.

If you use a refillable water bottle or are thinking of buying one…here are five important tips to follow to avoid getting ill:

  1. Don’t let a half-full bottle of water set in your gym bag between uses, empty wash and dry between uses.
  2. Select one that uses a straw and replace the straw frequently.
  3. Check the label to see if both the bottle and the lid are dishwasher safe.
  4. Wash after every use in the dishwasher or with hot water and soap.
  5. Rinse well. Allow to dry.

Don’t let your quest for good hydration expose you to unnecessary risks.  Use some common sense when it comes to these water bottles.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Healthful Holiday Substitutions

It’s totally possible to have healthful and fun holiday celebrations.

Just don’t eat everything in sight.

CookiesI know this seems like a no-brainer, but the holidays are all about balance. Overindulgence is the actual pitfall.

What got me thinking about this? Well, I’ve seen several Facebook posts this past week about cookie baking. Two different friends posted photos of their families baking together.

While you may expect me to say “Bah Humbug” to these events, I actually think they’re wonderful. What a great way to spend time together, and what a delightful holiday tradition!

I’m also not going to say “don’t eat those cookies, they aren’t good for you.”

Okay. I admit that that thought did go through my mind, but I’m trying to be realistic.  You can’t give up all your favorites. I’ve seen several articles already recommending that you go ahead and eat some cookies or other holiday treats — just do so in moderation. Feeling like a martyr about food tends to backfire.

Now I’m not suggesting that you make every food “free” or  “no calorie,” but go ahead and have a little bit of your holiday favorites.

And what about the rest of the holiday foods? Well, that’s where substitution comes in.

There are plenty of ways to replace particular ingredients in order to make holiday treats more healthful. With these substitutions, I promise, no one will know the difference. In some cases it’s not even what you’re taking out but what you’re putting in that counts.

Let’s look at an example. A couple of weekends ago, we had some friends over for brunch. The featured item was waffles. These weren’t just any old waffles from a mix, and they were definitely not freezer waffles. Instead, these were yeasted waffles that needed time to rise. You have to wake up early to get them going before your guests get up. The recipe calls for eggs, milk, sugar, flour, yeast, and lots of butter.

I did not destroy these waffles. I did not replace every ingredient. Instead, I made a few slight tweaks. I used skim milk instead of whole milk, and I substituted part whole grain flour for some regular white flour. These waffles were so good that they didn’t need butter or syrup. Instead I topped mine with fresh fruit.

Here’s another example. I recently made stuffing using slightly different ingredients. I began with whole grain bread instead of white bread. Then, instead of the eggs and butter from my mom’s traditional recipe, I tried adding leftover mashed pumpkin.

The stuffing was amazing. The changes I made increased the fiber content of each serving, added a vegetable to the mix, and boosted the flavor too. Who would have guessed that I could make such great changes to a previously fat-loaded family favorite without a single complaint?

Looking for more modifications? Try these…

Replace heavy cream with fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk.

Replace a portion of white flour with 100% whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour, by King Arthur, has the best results and can almost be replaced 100%.

In most recipes, you can slightly reduce the amount of sugar. Compensate with an extra dash of sweet flavorings like vanilla extract or cinnamon. These give a hint of sweetness without the calories.

Use fewer chocolate chips or substitute dried fruits or nuts instead.

Did you know that two large egg whites can replace one whole egg?

Combine 1/4 cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup butter to replace 1 cup of butter in a recipe.

What else am I up to in our holiday kitchen? Well actually, our family requested a really non-traditional holiday food this year for Christmas. They want low-country  “Shrimp and Grits.”

I’m exploring ways to make this dish a little lighter. Right now I’m planning to use broth instead of butter, more onions, and maybe some celery.  I think I’ll add more seasonings for flavor and use a little less bacon. Of course, there will still be shrimp and it will still be served on stone-ground grits.

There are lots of tips out there for ways to modify recipes, make changes, and eat healthfully, even during the holidays. Be mindful. Just don’t eat everything in sight.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University