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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Here’s To A Happy, Healthy New Year

By Sherrie Norris

It is no surprise that topping the list of New Year’s resolutions continues to be healthier lifestyle practices, including eating healthier and losing weight. Now is the perfect time to make another effort to succeed, even if these are the same challenges you deal with every year. They are for me, so let’s get on the wagon together and make it a group effort this time around.

We all know what we’re supposed to do, so let’s review the basics and personalize a plan that will work for all of us.  

A healthy balanced diet means choosing foods from all food groups of the daily food guide pyramid; a good variety will provide an enjoyable, satisfying diet that could evolve into a long-term, healthy lifestyle — if we stick to it.

Those of us who try one fad diet after another can attest to the fact that it’s really easy to get burned out quickly from eating the same things for an extended period of time. We have been taught that each of the foods within a particular group provides some, but not all, of the nutrients we need and it’s “heart-smart,” we are told, to follow the pyramid for the healthiest of all diets, so here goes:

  • Eat five fruits and vegetables daily: When planning meals, take meat off center stage. Think of meat, poultry and seafood as complements to fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Broil, bake, grill or steam food, rather than fry it.

     Sauté food in a nonstick skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

  • Reduce dairy intake: While foods with dairy provide essential calcium and protein, they can also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Instead of regular dairy products, buy skim or one-percent fat milk; nonfat or low-fat yogurt; low-fat or fat-free ice cream or frozen yogurt, reduced-fat, fat-free, or part-skim milk cheeses, low-fat or fat-free sour cream and cream cheese.
  • Restock your pantry: In addition to limiting fat, avoiding excess sodium is a healthy step. Too much sodium may contribute to high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Reduce dependence on fat and sodium to enhance flavor. Have a ready supply of onions, fresh garlic, ginger root, Dijon mustard, fresh lemons and limes, flavored vinegars, sherry or other cooking wines, evaporated skim milk, cornstarch, vegetable cooking spray and plenty of herbs and spices.
  • Snack smart: When you reach for a snack, it’s often a food’s characteristic — crunchy, creamy or cold — that appeals to you, rather than the food itself. Once you’ve identified what you’re looking for, choose a healthy food that can satisfy your craving. For crunchy, try reduced-fat or fat-free crackers, chips, air-popped popcorn, raw vegetables, rice cakes, frozen grapes. Creamy or cold: nonfat frozen yogurt, fat-free ice cream, sorbet, juice bars or fruit spritzers.


Hopefully, we can all get off to a good start with these ideas and more to help us achieve our goals for a happier, healthier new year.


“Miracle Soup”

Recommended for short-term use only to jump-start your weight-loss.

1 (46 oz.) can V8 juice (regular or low-sodium)

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped celery

½ medium cabbage, red or green, chopped (approx. 6 cups)

1 cup chopped onions

1½ cups chopped carrots

2 medium red, green and/or yellow peppers, chopped

(approx. 2 cups)


The above ingredients are suggested for best results. The following are optional, but will improve the taste of your soup:

1 envelope of onion soup mix

1 can lower sodium beef or chicken broth

1 beef bouillon cube or package

1 tsp. garlic powder

Black pepper to taste

Add any other seasonings such as curry, parsley or other spices/herbs, to suit your taste. Before adding salt, be sure to taste it since many items are already salty enough.

Chop and dice veggies. Add ingredients to a large pot. Add water if necessary to bring liquids to almost twice the depth of the veggies in the pot. Bring to a boil, and stir as needed. Cook on low heat for about 1½ to 2 hours or until veggies are soft.


Sunrise Smoothie

1 cup orange juice

1 cup plain fat-free yogurt

1 cup fresh or unsweetened frozen strawberries

2 medium bananas, peeled, cut up and frozen

1 teaspoon ground flax seed (optional)

6 to 8   ice cubes

Fresh strawberries (optional)

In a blender, combine juice, yogurt, 1 cup strawberries, bananas and flax seed. Cover; blend until pureed. With blender running, add ice through feed tube, one cube at a time, until desired consistency. If you like, garnish with strawberries. Serves 3 or 4.


Bran Muffin Breakfast Trifle

3 cups coarsely crumbled low-fat bran muffins, (about 3 medium muffins)

4 cups assorted fresh fruit chunks

2 cups nonfat or low-fat vanilla, or fruit flavored yogurt

Place half the muffin crumbs in a 2½ quart glass bowl or airtight container. Arrange all the fruit on top. Cover with remaining muffin crumbs. Spoon yogurt evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.


Healthy Hawaiian Ham Pitas

6 oz. fat-free cooked ham, diced

1 (8oz.) can pineapple tidbits in unsweetened juice, drained

½ cup chopped carrot

¼ cup fat-free mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 Tbsp. honey mustard

3 (6-inch) pocket pitas, halved

6 lettuce leaves

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except pitas and lettuce; mix well.

Line each pocket with lettuce leaf; fill with scant 1/3-cup ham mixture.