• FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 13, 2012) -- Jeannie Marshall, a certified fitness nutrition specialist, holds a package of apple sauce available at the Fort Sill Commissary. Applesauce can be used to replace eggs or oil in recipes, and though the packaging says healthy, she advises shoppers to check ingredients to get the most healthful product for their dietary and cooking needs.

    Healthy holiday treats

    FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 13, 2012) -- Jeannie Marshall, a certified fitness nutrition specialist, holds a package of apple sauce available at the Fort Sill Commissary. Applesauce can be used to replace eggs or oil in recipes, and though the packaging...

FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 13, 2012) -- Being a professional bikini fitness model doesn't mean life exists without treats, Jeannie Marshall just bakes them with healthy ingredients that keep her waistline trim.

This week's healthy foods series looks at some of Marshall's favorites along with adjustments people can make to have their sweets and enjoy them, too.

"I like sweets just as much as the next person, I just change my recipes so they're not laden with sugar, fat and other not so good stuff," she said. "I'm always looking at ways to make things that are healthy and clean so we can still enjoy our treats while keeping the pounds off."

Although her profession gives her a vested interest in eating healthy, Marshall's enthusiasm for good nutrition goes much deeper than just securing a fitness endorsement deal. She said a lot of people prefer a good fiction book, whereas she will opt for a book or magazine she can learn from.

"I'm always learning about good nutrition and fitness," she said. "If I see something in a magazine, I don't just take the author's word for it, I'll go to the sources the author quoted or look at medical research documents to see what the sources really say."

Starting with the basic building blocks of a holiday sweets recipe flour, oil and sugar she offered a couple alternatives.

Though she does often look to reduce oil in her recipes, Marshall will use coconut oil and especially loves that the Fort Sill Commissary stocks an organic brand. This oil is especially good for holiday treats, because it offers health benefits while providing that smooth, creamy feel most people enjoy from their sweets, she said.

"Yes, it has 12 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, but it's the kind of fat that promotes fat loss from within the body, especially around the abdomen," said Marshall. "I don't use a lot of it, generally about a half to a full tablespoon per recipe, but it makes everything moister and tastes like something people really want, instead of a dull health food cake."

Citing statistics from her smart phone, Marshall said coconut oil helps maintain blood glucose levels, decrease inflammation and repairs tissues. She added the oil supports the body's immune system, relieves high blood pressure and increases bone strength.

Baby food and apple sauce are two other modifiers she uses in place of eggs or oil.

"Either ingredient gives the moisture egg whites would otherwise provide, and in the case of baby food, there's nothing in it besides the main ingredient and water," said Marshall.

As for applesauce, she suggeted natural types with minimal ingredients.

While most dessert-type recipes call for a cup of butter, two to three eggs and a cup or two of all-purpose flour, Marshall's healthy desserts deviate from this nutritional desert and provide a great deal of healthful benefits.

One example is her crustless pumpkin pie (shown on the Cannoneer Facebook page) that is dairy-, gluten- and sugar-free. Even better, it's something her husband, Blake, really enjoys.

For those people who might be inclined to take the easy road and reach for pumpkin pie mix in the commissary, she doesn't recommend the product. Reading the ingredient labels on most reveals added sugar, high fructose corn syrup and modified corn starch. Instead, Marshall chooses either canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes. If time permits, she said baking either vegetable is even better.

To sweeten her recipes, she uses either Stevia or Truvia, products that so far haven't created bad press such as other sweeteners have. Again though, that awareness comes through study and research.

"I want to have the knowledge myself to make the best educated decisions whether or not to add something to my diet," she said. "I want to stay healthy, not to just live to a certain age, but to enjoy a good quality of life."

Many holiday delights feature chocolate, and here, too, Marshall voiced her preferences. She said chocolate that is 72 percent or higher in cacao is the best choice for maximizing anti-oxidant benefits when eaten in small quantities.

Incidently, cacao and cocoa are not the same product. The former is an unprocessed form of the beans or pods of the cacao tree while cocoa is the processed version of the beans. This processing presses out most of the beans' cocoa butter. Then they are roasted and crushed to cocoa powder.

Marshall picked up a box that prominentely stated it contained 100-percent cacao.

"This is a great base for homemade hot chocolate. With a bit of Stevia and some vanilla or mint extract, this traditional winter warm-up is yummy and contains far less calories than mixes. It's something my husband and I share in the evening," she said.

Though she eats healthy most of the time, on occasion, she will go for something processed or what her husband terms, "naughty food."

"For my birthday I found a cupcake bakery and had one cupcake all to myself," she said. "People need to allow themselves to have those treats, it's OK so there's nothing to feel guilty about. It's not something you'll eat every day of the week so enjoy it when you have it."

Marshall said she doesn't presume to suggest people adopt the lifestyle she lives, though she does say being mindful of what they eat will benefit their health and quality of life. Also, because many military families are young couples with children, good nutrition can be a gift they give their children who may follow this choice throughout their lives.

"Our culture is often food centered, such as making a boxed brownie mix that usually has a lot of sugar, fat and chemicals. If we can instill healthy values and food choices, families can still celebrate the holidays, but do so with foods that are also more healthy to eat," she said.

Look for upcoming articles in the Cannoneer on healthy eating, such as main entree ideas to do away with prepackaged box meals.

Page last updated Thu December 13th, 2012 at 12:16