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Diets are not just about avoiding bad foods

After spending the better part of the last month gorging ourselves on holiday feasts and treats aplenty, many of us have ushered in the new year resolved to shape up, slim down and make some positive changes.

Time to talk about dieting, right?

Wrong.

Instead of preaching about all of the bad foods you shouldn't be eating, let's take a "glass half full" approach and focus on some of the good (delicious and nutritious) items you should be enjoying more.

Dr. Eudene Harry, author of "Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps," recommends substituting some of your heavy comfort dishes and standby packaged foods in favor of healthier options. Here's my take on some of her excellent suggestions:

n Tomato, garlic, chicken and almonds: Cooked tomatoes boast one of the world's most concentrated sources of cancer-fighting lycopene. Garlic is a bona fide free-radical destroyer. Nuts can help you lose weight, maintain healthy blood pressure and, some claim, improve your mood. Whip up a tomato-garlic chicken dish using almond crumbs instead of bread.

n Mashed cauliflower gone Greek: Not only is Greek yogurt thicker, richer and creamier than its American counterpart, but it also packs a bigger healthy-bacteria punch. Instead of adding a ton of fatty, cholesterol-filled butter and sour cream to starchy potatoes, try steamed cauliflower mashed with Greek yogurt and fresh black pepper. If yogurt isn't your thing, cauliflower mashed with chicken stock and a little butter or milk is a dead ringer for them 'taters.

n Sushi: Where else can you get healthy seafood, minced cucumbers, shredded carrots, nutrition-rich kelp, sesame seeds and white rice all in one filling and satisfying bite? Just go easy on the soy and cream sauces.

n Pomegranate-balsamic tempeh: With its high protein, fiber and "meaty" texture, tempeh is prized by vegetarians. (It's made from soybeans in a process similar to cheese making.) Like tofu, tempeh takes on the flavors with which it is cooked, so pairing it with tart pomegranate and a tangy balsamic vinegar makes for a tongue-tingling healthy salad.

n Fruit salad for dessert: I'm not the world's biggest fruit fan, so this is a tough one for me. But most people love the stuff, so stir together chopped apples, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, blueberries or grapes for a sweet and juicy post-dinner palate-cleanser. Add lemon juice to brighten the flavors (and prevent browning) or add a little yogurt and granola for a quick parfait. Parfaits I can do.

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Just as I suspected, last week's sermon about how well (or woefully) children behave in restaurants drew a slew of comments from every angle.

"Wonderful article!" wrote Marty Robinson of Charleston. "I can't tell you how many times my husband and I have wished we could give our bill to the parents of unruly children."

Now there's an idea I hadn't thought of.

"Love, love, love your article," added Dr. Sue Ann Upton. "Now if people will just follow your example. Your kids are always gentlemen and should make you very proud!"

High praise from the pediatrician? I'll take it.

And I feared I might have to offer a mea culpa after taking seven 10-year-old boys out to a Japanese steakhouse for a birthday celebration Saturday night, but those fellas were great.

Thank goodness, because the wife and I were seriously outnumbered.

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Speaking of kids, we had two more birthdays this month, which meant two more requests for special "daddy cakes." The first one was a real challenge.

Having recently taken up riding lessons, 8-year-old Isaac decided he wanted a horse cake for his rockin' rollin' skating party. And not just any horse cake, but one that "looks exactly like" the one shown on the mold we bought to make it.

I was intimidated, having learned the hard way that such finished products rarely resemble what's teased on the package. But this baby was definitely one of my best yet. Take a look at this week's "before" and "after" pictures!

Two weeks later, 10-year-old Adam did me a solid, or so I thought, by asking for the same ice cream football cake I made last year. Sweet, I said, relishing the prospect of familiarity over another experiment.

But even though I followed the same steps as last year, the results were not nearly as good. The ice cream wouldn't keep its shape, the chocolate coating kept cracking and the thing nearly fell apart when I tried to transfer it to a serving platter to decorate.

You just never know.

After assessing the damage and making an emergency trip to Kroger — when in doubt, just add more icing! — I was able to serve something passable to the crowd.

But much like Marshall and WVU's seasons this year, it left a lot to be desired.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Daily Mail. He can be reached at 304-348-1721 or by e-mail at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy.


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