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Tis the season of cooler weather and comfort foods. Nothing warms up the heart better than savory dishes, such as macaroni and cheese, potato soup, meatloaf, or fried chicken. But while these all-star fare are certainly delicious, they're also heavy and high calorie.

Lightening up your favorites can be easier than you think. Simply use less of the unhealthy ingredients or swap them out for a healthier version. For example, traditional mayonnaise-based salads, such as broccoli salad or waldorf salad, are typically so heavy in mayonnaise that you can't even see the actual ingredients! By drastically decreasing the amount of dressing used, you will not only see the beautiful produce, you will taste them!

Loaded potato or broccoli cheese soup does not have to have heavy whipping cream to make it creamy. Non-fat evaporated milk or a mixture of low-fat milk and fat-free sour cream can serve as a lower-calorie substitute. Meatloaf or casserole dishes are excellent avenues for hidden vegetables (finely chopped carrots and bell peppers) and healthy fillers (oats and ground flaxseed). And that fried fare that tastes so good but doesn't sit well in the stomach, can be dipped in egg whites, rolled in whole wheat panko crumbs, and baked to have a similar crunch but without the grease.

I've never been a big fan of Waldorf Salad; all I taste is mayo.  But this version has the perfect amount of dressing.  It will look like it's not near enough, but I promise you that once it chills in the refrigerator for a few hours, it's the perfect amount!

Apple (Waldorf) Salad Printable PDF

1 Tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 packets sugar substitute

1 large Rome Beauty apple, cored unpeeled, and diced

½ cup diced celery

½ cup golden raisins

¼ cup chopped walnuts, optional

In bottom of mixing bowl, blend together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and sugar substitute. Add chopped apple and stir to coat with dressing. (Quickly coating apples with the lemon juice dressing prevents browning). Add remaining ingredients; toss. Allow salad to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. (Dressing may look like it's not enough, but after it chills, it's the perfect amount.)

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrient analysis with nuts: 133 calories, 7 grams fat, 36 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein