Patty James has her Masterís Degree in Nutrition, is a Certified Natural Chef and is the Founder of the first Certified Organic Cooking School in the country. She has developed The Patty James Health Guide, a tool for understanding nutrition and portion sizes.

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Vital Health with Patty James

by Patty James, Organic Cooking Expert

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I recently took a trip to New Orleans where I helped with The Boys and Girls Club. While there in the Crescent City I ate way too much fried food, as well as butter and cream. My goodness!

My friends J.T. and Teresa Martin are from New Orleans and they helped set up my trip. They also supplied me with a 6-page list of foods I had to eat while I was there. Remember, I was in New Orleans to help kids get healthier and I was eating fried oysters with Brie and beignets... though not more than once, thankfully!

Seasoning recipes, healthyThe difference is, of course, that I don't eat like that often and did find restaurants that served healthier choices. I even took a cooking class while there and look forward to "tweaking" the recipes by substituting healthier ingredients for the less-so while maintaining the basic flavor of the dish.

The Shrimp Creole can easily be served with brown rice instead of white rice. I would use homemade chicken stock and not the salty, jarred kind used in class.

Here are some of the major New Orleans ingredients that need tweaking, but this list will work wherever you live.

Salt and Seasonings
I didn't add any extra salt while there, but my rings wouldn't fit after just two days! Before you reach for the salt shaker, try a little fresh lemon juice or even a splash of vinegar to brighten the flavor. Nothing adds freshness and flavor to a dish like fresh herbs and seasonings. Fresh parsley is also a wonderful choice. It not only adds flavor, but is also very good for your liver.

Butter and Cream
Generally speaking, if you want the flavor of butter in a dish, you can certainly use much less or simply finish your favorite sauce with a little butter and use olive oil as the oil of choice for sauteing and for making roux for gravy. When baking, substitute applesauce, pumpkin or prune puree for all or part of the butter. Cream can easily be replaced with milk and/or stock.

Fried Foods
O.K., beignets are most likely always fried, however who eats those everyday? Bake or roast your potatoes or yams for yam fries. Bake the chicken or fish.

Whole Grain
The easy tweak is brown rice instead of white rice. It does take longer, but is so much healthier and also more flavorful. Quinoa is a whole grain and takes about the same time as white rice. Use whole grain flours in all or part of your baked goods. Please note that in using whole grain flours in baked goods, liquids sometimes have to be increased.

It is very easy to use much less sugar in recipes. Start by using 1/3 less sugar and go from there... perhaps down to half or less. Also, use a natural sugar instead of the processed white stuff. Please do not use fake sugar!

Change from vegetable oils to oils from a single source. Vegetable oils can contain oils you do not want to consume and they are very processed. Olive oil comes from an olive tree. Sunflower comes from a sunflower, etc. Grapeseed oil can take a higher heat than olive oil for when that is necessary, which isn't often.

In good health!

Patty James. M.S. is a Vital Health Educator and Nutrition Coach who founded the first certified organic cooking school and nutrition center in America.

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