This season, change the way you think about eggnog

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By Cheryle Syracuse

Eggnog, an annual tradition in many American homes, has its roots in early American history. It’s reported that even George Washington had his own favorite recipe for this holiday beverage.
Traditionally, eggnog is made by combining raw eggs with milk or cream, flavorings and perhaps alcohol. I’m betting that George’s recipe had lots of eggs, cream, sugar and possibly rum.
If your family enjoys eggnog, here are a couple of things to think about before indulging in this holiday tradition:
I think everyone knows by now that eating raw eggs could be risky, especially for people with weaker immune systems such as children, pregnant women, older adults and people with diseases. Check the recipe you use. If it doesn’t cook the eggs perhaps you can look for a newer recipe or even newer ingredients.
There are new recipes available that call for cooking the eggs completely. Check out the American Egg Board’s website (www.incredibleegg.org). These recipes make a custard-like base that is chilled and then mixed with the other ingredients just before serving.
If you must use your old tried-and-true family recipe for eggnog, you can purchase a pasteurized egg product to replace the raw eggs in the recipe. Pasteurized eggs come in several forms and can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store near the regular eggs. Some come in milk carton-type packages and are either whole eggs, just egg whites or flavored egg white products. There are also pasteurized eggs still in the shell.
All of these products have been heated to destroy food-borne illness pathogens. You use them as you would regular eggs. Be sure to look for the word “pasteurized” on the label. A grocery store ready-made eggnog is pasteurized.
The other thing to think about before downing a couple cups of eggnog is the calories. Just one eight-ounce cup of store-bought regular eggnog can have 360 calories — 160 of them from fat. Some of the “light” or reduced-fat products can be cut those calories down to 220 per cup with only 20 from fat. The Egg Board’s recipe contains 90 calories (these are just 1/2-cup servings) and this recipe is made with milk (not cream or half-and-half) and these calorie counts don’t even contain any alcohol.
I know, you say that’s what eggnog is all about, the rich creamy taste and texture, and it’s the holidays. You can make some trade-offs and reduce the calories and fat with just a few substitutions of lower-fat milk or cream, only pasteurized whites instead of whole eggs and still have some holiday cheer.
Another thought is to really change your recipe and the way your mind thinks about “nogs.” Maybe start a new tradition with fruit nogs. These are guiltless nogs the whole family can enjoy.

Banana Nog
Bananas give a rich texture to this no-fat alternative to traditional eggnog. This would be a great drink to get you started in the morning, but also before a meal or party. The milk and fruit helps you feel full, so you won’t overeat later.
4 bananas, peeled
1-1/2 cups skim milk
1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 tsp. rum extract (or other seasonings; see below)
Dash of ground nutmeg
Add all ingredients except nutmeg in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour into 4 fancy serving glasses and top each with a pinch of nutmeg. Each of the four servings contains about 200 calories. These include only 5 calories from fat and 2 grams of dietary fiber, not to mention a serving of fruit and dairy.

Other variations of Banana Nog
Pumpkin: Add 1 cup pumpkin in place of the banana plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 cup sugar.
Berry: Add 2 cups of berries in place of the bananas plus 2 tablespoons sugar.
Vanilla: Omit bananas and substitute vanilla flavored yogurt in place of plain yogurt and add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
Recipe courtesy of The Holiday Resource Collection at Food and Health Communications Inc. www.communicatingfoodforhealth.com.

Pear Nog
Try this rich and creamy — yet healthy — twist on your traditional eggnog. Highlighted with brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon, this healthy nog will add the perfect touch to your holiday parties. Only 5 ingredients and ready in 10 minutes!
1 pear, peeled, cored, cut into chunks
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup egg substitute (like Egg Beaters or just egg whites, pasteurized)
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 ice cubes, cracked
Peel, core and cut the pear. Place all ingredients in the blender. Blend for 15 seconds and serve. Makes one serving. This serving contains 200 calories (only 23 from fat), 6 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein.

Recipe source: Produce for Better Health Foundation www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.