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Memorial Day Weekend is a time for many to kick back relax and dive into summer. A time for BBQs, outdoor parties and above all a time to bring out the chips and dips. A key component in the quest for a healthy diet and lifestyle is to find ways to enjoy these situations without overdoing it with extra calories and unhealthy fats.

Enter - SALSA! Salsa can be a yummy, low-calorie and high nutrient addition/substitution for many higher calorie condiments and dips.

Tomato salsa, if prepared using fresh ingredients and low salt, has several health benefits. Tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene. Lime and hot pepper also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals.

DID YOU KNOW? Because of the fresh ingredients, you can include tomato salsa as one of your suggested vegetable servings per day. Just 1/4 cup of fresh tomato salsa counts as a single serving.

Tomatoes are very high in several nutrients: a single medium tomato contains as much as a quarter of your suggested daily VITAMIN C intake. Vitamin C helps you deal with infections, including gum disease.

Tomatoes also are very high in LYCOPENE

, an antioxidant which appears to prevent the formation of harmful by-products of metabolism called free radicals. Free radicals are thought to be responsible for damaging the body’s cells, as well as their genetic makeup, leading to certain chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

As many of you know, my neighbor Cookie is an amazing cook and whenever we have parties, she is responsible for providing the salsa. Funny as it may sound, she has actually given my son's bowls of salsa for their birthday with strict instructions that NO ONE else in the family can eat it.

Yes, it is that good. I have been known to sit with a spoon and just eat it as is. To be fair though, this is not Cookie's recipe but her son-in-law Eric's concoction and I give full credit to him for this delicious condiment.

Along with the obvious dip benefits, we add salsa to eggs, meatloaf and in place of high sugar BBQ sauce and ketchup. I am sure you can find many places to sneak this healthy food into your meal plan.

Eric's Salsa

1 tbls olive oil

1 small clove garlic crushed

1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (drain)

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

2 tbl chopped fresh cilantro ( I add a lot more)

1/2 lime or lemon (juice)

2 tbls chopped fresh zucchini

2 tbls chopped fresh onion

a "dash" of crushed red peppers

Seriously, this is the best salsa I have ever tasted - ENJOY

To Your Health and Happy Memorial Day. Thanks to all who have and do serve our country - Noreen!

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