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Happy New Year! Now that the holiday’s are behind us, many of you (like us) are probably making an effort to lighten up – hit the gym more regularly, eat healthier, and focus on our overall well being. It’s no surprise that fitness/nutrition goals are consistently the most common “New Years Resolutions.” In this series, we’ll focus on lightened up meals that are not only delicious, but that you can feel good about eating.

I’m by no means a dietitian or nutritionist, so if you’re looking for professional nutrition advice I do recommend seeking a professional. That said, most of us know that a spinach salad with grilled chicken and a light vinaigrette is a healthier choice than a Big Mac and fries. But when it comes to making healthier choices, you have to be careful! Take that same salad but add some crumbled blue cheese, walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit and swap the lightly seasoned chicken for either breaded or some form of barbecue chicken and ranch dressing, and that salad is quickly approaching the same calorie count as the Big Mac and fries! Surprised, right? “But it’s a salad,” I thought. It’s true, most fast food and chain restaurant salads have as many if not more calories in the “healthier” salad than in many other more delicious menu items.

Lightened up doesn’t have to mean all you eat is plain grilled chicken with steamed broccoli and plain brown rice. To be sustainable eating lighter, you have to focus on foods that have great flavor but not all the calories. Fresh herbs, vinaigrette’s, salsas, chutney, marinades and spices can all add delicious flavor without adding loads of calories. Take that same chicken and marinade it for a few hours in light Italian salad dressing and grill it to add flavor but virtually no extra calories. To make it extra delicious, make a pineapple salsa with red onion, pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno and salt and pepper and place on top of the chicken. You just took boring grilled chicken, added flavor through the marinade and added a fresh and healthy pop of flavor with the salsa. THAT is what lightened up means to me!

Throughout the series we’ll share our favorite lightened up dishes – sometimes on their own, and sometimes with the original version. For example, stay tuned for our best Chicken Pot Pie recipes made two ways: the original with a delicious puff pastry topping, and a lightened up version with the same great flavor but significantly less calories. Some recipes like my Greek Salad are always lightened up, and others we’ll show you how to recreate your favorite dishes in a lighter way. Stay tuned!

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