Have a Healthy Holiday Season: Tips and Tricks for staying on Track
Although some of us may have indulged in too many treats over Halloween, more of us have a greater struggle towards the end of this month as the official holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving. With all of the celebrations, parties, travel, extra dinners/drinks out and food everywhere, this time of year can become quite challenging to the waistline. More food means extra calories, and calories DO count. Since 3,500 calories equal one pound of fat, it’s easy to see how pounds can creep on slowly. Below are some of my best tips to stay on track, starting with your turkey!
- Instead of dark turkey meat, choose the white meat (or at least try half dark, half white). It is a lean protein that is lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories. Skip the skin. This is the part of the turkey that is highest in fat, cholesterol, and calories.
- Yes, we all know turkey can taste dry and boring (especially the white meat), which is why we love our cranberry sauce and gravy toppings. Cranberry sauce has a great, sweet flavor and is lower in sodium, fat, and cholesterol than regular gravy. Yes, cranberry sauce is often high in sugar and can add up quick in calories, so keep your portions small. If you are hosting OR have the opportunity to bring a dish for your holiday meal, try my recipes listed below: Cranberry Pear Sauce (no refined white sugar/sweetened with pears) and Mushroom Gravy (none of the cholesterol since it’s meat and dairy free).
- Instead of cream and butter, mash your potatoes with skim milk and ghee, cholesterol-free margarine or spread, OR olive oil. Season with garlic, chives, salt, and pepper to add flavor. Or try using Greek or Icelandic yogurt (like Siggi’s) for a creamy taste. You could also try Cauliflower Mash instead of mashed potatoes. If you are already serving carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and stuffing, it’s great to add an extra vegetable option.
- Try baked or mashed sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. They are richer in minerals and vitamins, especially beta carotene, and have a lower glycemic index. Their natural sweet flavor can be enhanced with just a pinch of cinnamon, so they don’t need milk and butter or sugar. OR try roasted white or sweet potato “chips”. Slice potatoes thin and place in oven drizzled with olive oil or coconut oil and a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt, then bake in the oven. See the recipe on my blog:
- Fill up on vegetable appetizers. They are high in fiber and make you feel fuller longer. This will help prevent overeating during the main meal. If you are hosting, make sure to put out a crudités (peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, jicama) with dips such as guacamole, salsa, hummus, tzatziki. I love Cava brand for dips as they are lower in calories!
- If you are a guest at someone else’s house (and you are unsure what they may serve you), spoil your appetite. Have a significant filling snack or small meal before you go: yogurt + fruit, a salad, vegetable soup, or even half a sandwich. This way you will not arrive hungry at your dinner and will be less tempted by unhealthy options. DO NOT “save your calories” for your large, late holiday meal. If you eat a large quantity (think: holiday meal, drinks, dessert) of calories late in the day, there is likely not enough time to burn them off before you go to bed.
- If you are hosting Thanksgiving, you have the control (and your guests will thank you) to offer healthier, higher fiber options (fiber helps you feel full). Serve a green salad and/or vegetable soup for beginning courses. Make a vegetable, nut, and/or whole grain-based stuffing. (See my Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Quinoa Stuffing recipe.) Include another vegetable side, such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans or zucchini.
- Offer and/or choose healthy hors d’oeuvres. Try the crudités mentioned above. Add whole whole grain crackers (GG Fiber, Brown Rice Crackers, Flackers, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Jilz Crackers) and whole grain bread with lower fat cheeses: parmesan, feta, goat, mozzarella. Try adding shrimp cocktail, plain nuts, olives, and fruit as healthy options and/or part of your cheese plate.
- Be on Portion Patrol, especially if you are eating family or buffet style. Put everything on your plate first so you are aware of what you are eating.
- Plate Perfect for better balance: Make sure 1/2 of your plate is filled with a vegetable, 1/4 with a lean protein, and 1/4 with a starch, preferably one that is high in fiber/whole grains.
General Portion Sizes – Depends on calorie goals, but as a general rule:
- Meat/Protein: Palm for higher fat choices, whole hand for leaner cuts
- Carbohydrate: Fist
- Vegetables: 2 fists
- Note: Fruit is a carbohydrate
- Note: Dairy contains high protein and carbohydrate
- Fruit for dessert–you will be surprised how popular this will be, especially a fresh fruit salad. Try the baked apple recipe below and avoid the high-fat, high-calories crust of apple pie.
- Work out! A lot of gyms ARE open on Thanksgiving Day, so get in a good sweat before you sit down for your meal. OR make sure you work out Wednesday and/or Friday of Thanksgiving week. If you are away and/or not near a gym, go for a walk, run, jog, do a workout video and/or play an exercise/active video game.
If you DO indulge on Thanksgiving, remember it is just one day or one weekend. Get back on track immediately to healthy eating and exercise habits!!!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!
Butternut Squash + Pomegranate Quinoa Stuffing (Serves 8)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 ounces olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6 stalks celery, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ½ cup roasted butternut squash cubes
- ½ cup cubed whole wheat sourdough bread toasted in oven with olive oil, salt and pepper
- Roast cubed butternut squash tossed in 1 tbsp olive oil in a 400 degree preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until browned. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Combine the stock and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.
- Meanwhile, pour olive oil into large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the onion mixture from the heat and add the quinoa to the pan. Stir in the sage and salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Transfer the stuffing to an 8-inch square pan. Add bread and roasted butternut squash. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Toss with hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds before serving.
- Garnish with parsley and ENJOY!
Cranberry Sauce with Pears (Serves 8)
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2 medium pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons agave
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine cranberries, pears, coconut sugar, water, agave, orange juice, grated ginger, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until berries start to pop, about 5 minutes.
- Press berries against side of pan with wooden spoon and continue to cook until berries have broken down and sauce thickens to a jam-like consistency, about 5 minutes more.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Adjust consistency with water as needed.
- Stir in crystallized ginger.
- Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
**Can be served cold or reheated.
Wild Mushroom Gravy (Serves 8)
Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 c. dry sherry
- 3 c. mushroom stock
- 1 1/2 tbsp. almond flour (or use all-purpose, wheat, oat, rice etc)
- 2 tbsp. water
- 2 tbsp. olive oil (or ghee/butter/margarine as desired)
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté at least 1 minute. (I cook a little longer as I love the carmelized onion flavor.)
- Add thyme, salt, and mushrooms and sauté about 8 minutes, or until mushrooms are browned.
- Add sherry and cook until liquid evaporates.
- Stir in mushroom broth.
- Bring to a boil and cook until gravy is reduced to about 2 cups (about 14 minutes).
- Whisk together almond lour and water in a small bowl.
- Add mixture to skillet; return to boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat; stir in oil (or ghee/butter) 1 tablespoon at a time and pepper.
- 6 apples (choose your favorite variety!)
- 1/2 cup raisins and/or dried apricots
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts OR pecans (or other nut)
- 3/4 tsp grated orange zest
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 tsp powdered cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Remove apple cores and peel around core opening.
- Place apples in shallow baking pan.
- Stir together raisins, nuts, and zest in a small bowl.
- Add water and spices to saucepan and heat until it boils.
- Simmer at low heat for 2 minutes.
- Fill each apple core with nut mixture.
- Spoon the hot mixture over each apple.
- Place pan in oven for 30-35 minutes or until apples are soft. Enjoy!