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[dropcap letter="F"]ancy goin’ healthy this Noche Buena? I dare you to rebel against the usual and scream unique this time around. Instead of the usual high calorie, high cholesterol, high fat choices, here are some alternatives that you may want to try.

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Instead of a rich Beef Bolognese or White creamy Alfredo pasta why not Pasta Aglio Olio? The marriage of virginal olive oil with loads of garlic (that’s good for the heart) and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese will be more distinctive when cooked using angel hair pasta noodles. This simple pasta dish grows on you so watch out for possible carbo overloading.

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Salmon is not only good for the heart but likewise kind to your knees. Eating salmon can assuage the pain caused by inflamed joints. It’s also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acid which aids in uplifting sagging spirits (especially when facing a plate of salad greens instead of lechon). Here’s a simple recipe you may want to follow:
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking dish with aluminium foil brushed with some olive oil. Next put an inch-thick salmon (about a kilo will do), skin side down and season with salt and pepper to taste, add lemon zest and the juice of one lemon, put some capers and lemon slices and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

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When faced with a seafood menu, I choose scallops over shrimp or oysters anytime.  The sweetish plump meat of this shellfish is a favorite indulgence. Scallops also contain Omega-3 polyunsaturated acids that help provide relief from high blood pressure. This elegant tasting shellfish is also rich in magnesium which aids in relaxing angry blood vessels thus keeping hypertension at bay. Since scallops tend to be rubbery if overcooked, the best way to cook these will be through searing. Just brush a pan with a little olive oil, heat that pan near but not yet smoking point then put those juicy scallops and sear both sides. Squeeze some lemon juice and enjoy.
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Tuna is a default diet fish choice, be it canned or fresh. It is, much like salmon a good source of Omega-3. Top that with research that indicates tuna may help in lowering colon cancer risk. For a Noche Buena with a  Japanese touch serve some fleshy red tuna  sashimi. For a more luscious luxurious sashimi treat, serve fresh orange-colored salmon that tastes like creamy pork fat that melts in your mouth. By the way,  Tuna and Salmon sashimi dipped in wasabi suffused soy sauce is also quite an effective cold relief remedy.

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A Sushi Boat will be a nice centerpiece in your Noche Buena table. Instead of serving  Arroz Valenciana or Paella opt for various kinds of sushi. Feature the California Maki a Pinoy favourite which is vinegar flavoured rice with crab and mango wrapped in nori (seaweed wrap). Add various Nigiri sushi, which is vinegar rice topped with a slice of raw or cooked fish or vegetables and tied with a nori ribbon. Salmon, crabstick, white fish, shrimp, squid, salmon roe, octopus or egg will be a good variety to be included in the sushi boat.

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Instead of Lasagna serve Eggplant Parmigiana which is just as tasty without the meat.  This simple yet elegant dish combines thin eggplant slices with canned whole tomatoes, carrots, thyme, basil leaves, mozzarella and freshly grated parmigiano-regiano cheese. Fiber rich eggplant is not only known as a cancer buster but likewise a dieter’s friend. The fiber found in eggplant bulks up to give anyone trying hard to lose weight that much needed satiety.

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It would be good to serve a huge round tray of naturally sweet refreshing locally available fruits such as honey dew, watermelon, cantaloupe, ripe mango and pineapple slices in place of cakes or cookies. Should you opt for going more Western in your fruit choices go for fresh red cherries, fresh blueberries and seedless black and green grapes. Serve the fruits with some cottage cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt on the side for a heartier yet still nutrient-filled treat.

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Having a baked apple is like having a slice of baked apple pie, sans the buttery crust. Here’s my own recipe which I use as a treat for my sweet tooth cravings:
Peel and core six apples. Squeeze lemon juice to prevent apples from turning brown. Crush 18 pieces of Jacob’s Hi Cal Original crackers, add three-four packets of Splenda (adjust according to your taste but must not exceed six packets), cinnamon powder and nutmeg.  Mix well. Stuff the crushed flavored crackers inside the cored apples. Pack the stuffing well. Place in a baking dish. Pour about an inch of diet Sprite or 7Up. Bake the apple in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for an hour.  Check the apple after 30 minutes, if too dry, you may add a little more of the diet soda. You may opt to top the baked apple with some cottage cheese or low-fat creamy yogurt.

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Do you have recipes for other healthier alternatives you want to share? Go ahead and share them in the Comments Section below.
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Lorraine Timbol

Lorraine Timbol, also known as LT, former culinary consultant for Unilever and EIC of Appetite Magazine is a frustrated actress who managed to get into bit roles at the tender age of 40. She is now comfortably in her element as a freelance food stylist and food writer, teaching Cohen cooking on the side.

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