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Cold weather usually draws us to comfort foods that are hearty and rich. However, those rich ingredients aren’t necessarily healthy for seniors who may suffer from diabetes or heart disease and need to adhere to a low-fat diet. Good, warm, nutritious comfort food can be prepared in a healthy way by substituting or reducing the use fatty ingredients with ones that are more nutritious. Here are some suggestions on how to do that with several specific winter dishes. These tips can also be used in many types of cooking year-round to reduce fat content while maintaining flavor. Chili: A cold winter night by the fire is made complete with a bowl of chili. However, the beef, sausage, and cheese can quickly add up to more than 500 calories per bowl. Fat from meat products is not healthy for those with heart disease. Use lean meat instead of sausage and fatty cuts of meat. Use several types of beans and lots of spices. Before serving, sprinkle the chili with low-fat cheese or nonfat sour cream. Winter beverages: This is the season filled with warm, sugary peppermint drinks, eggnog, apple cider, and hot chocolate. Coffee shops roll out their most tantalizing flavors, and it’s important to order your favorite coffee drinks in a way that greatly reduces the sugar content, such as ordering the “Skinny” version with the nonfat whipped cream. (hyperlink to blog when posted on 1/17) If you are making hot chocolate at home use sugar-free cocoa mix and top it with sugar-free or low-fat whipped cream. Low-fat versions of eggnog are available, and some stores carry it made with low-fat almond milk instead of whole milk. If you are at a party and want to drink beer or wine, select the light versions if they are available and limit yourself to only one or two half glasses. Macaroni and cheese: Many families have a favorite family recipe for “Mac and Cheese," low-fat and most are high in fat from milk, cheese and other fatty ingredients like sausage. Replace whole milk with nonfat milk, use reduced fat cheese and try to make the recipe without sausage. Changing the fat content of the dairy ingredients won’t affect the taste and will reduce fat content for those whose health depends on low-fat diet. Mashed potatoes and gravy: For some people, this is the Holy Grail of comfort foods. They believe that a whole milk, heavy cream, sour cream and butter used in the dish the better. When they top the potatoes with full ladles of high-fat gravy nirvana is achieved. Everyone can still enjoy this comfort food when it is made with low-fat dairy products and reduced-fat butter. Compromises may have to be made in the gravy, such as eating it in smaller portions rather than eliminating it altogether. However, you will have made important progress toward a heart-healthy dish by reducing the fat content of the mashed potatoes. Traditions are difficult to change, and some seniors may balk at changing the ingredients in age-old favorite recipes. However, talking to them about the importance of reducing fat for heart health may convince them to try a new version. If you need support in cooking for your senior, the caregivers at Home Care Assistance can help. They are trained in the culinary arts and good nutrition for seniors. Our exclusive Balanced Care Method™ training is a research-based approach to aging that focuses on nutrition and other positive lifestyle factors including physical activity and social engagement. These have been proven to maximize health and wellness for older adults, and our caregivers will practice this approach to care with your loved one.
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