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Claire Shorenstein MS, RDN, CDN
Lauren Antonucci MS, RDN, CDE, CSSD, CDN
Lauren Antonucci MS, RDN, CDE, CSSD, CDN
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Holiday Season Helpers -Thanksgiving Swaps and Beyond
As soon as Halloween has passed, we kick off the 2-month run of holiday season festivities and seasonal eating. Many have already begun to fret about how to
"get through" the Holiday season without caving into the temptations of holiday spreads and the foods that tend to be found on the dinner table at this time of year. We often hear that a years worth of dedication to good health and nutrition receives the ultimate test at the year's end before we "begin again" in the new year. We are here to encourage you to continue your intent and dedication towards a healthier (an d dare we say happier!) you, and not write off the holiday season as inevitable disaster or a "reward-fest" , or to be used as motivation to set new resolutions on January 1st. Instead, focus on maintaining whatever consistent and mindful eating you have already worked so diligently on, and even strive to add a few new healthy habits before 2018 comes to a close.
Let us start with Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving literally brings a plethora of foods to the table-and far too often many of the foods served at this time of year are not nutritionally dense veggies loaded with fiber vitamins and minerals (and did we mention lots of great flavor!). Instead, we encounter fat and sugar-laden treats and desserts or high calorie casseroles and fried appetizers. The truth is, that if you continue to make consistently healthy food choices during the holidays, you do not need
undo a year's worth of progress toward whatever your nutrition and health goals are, no do you need to gain weight during this busy time of year (unless it is one of your health goals to do so!). Do not carry the mentality of what you "shouldn't" be eating this holiday season, and instead focus on those that you should! Making good food choices can be easier by finding and making healthy ingredient swaps in recipes while still achieving a flavorful dish. Below are four tips on how to swap in some healthier ingredients to common Thanksgiving dishes:
1. Casseroles and Pies
Please be open minded when it comes to changing a favorite or family recipe to make it healthier. You may think you love your squash soup with whole milk, but when you try a milk alternative such almond or oat milk, or switch to 2% milk, you may love it just as much (or dare we suggest, possibly even more). Almond milk has
a distinct flavor
, but the unsweetened flavors have a minimal effect on final recipe taste, and can be delicious when used the right way. Swap out the whole milk in your green bean casserole or pies and insert in an almond milk instead!
2. Dressing (or stuffing)
Use multigrain or whole wheat bread instead of traditional white bread, and swap chicken broth for reduced-sodium chicken broth. You can also add chopped veggies including onion, mushrooms and your other family favorites and reduce the butter you usually use by 50%. The higher content of fiber, vitamins and minerals from the addition of the veggies and whole grains elevates the nutritional content of the dish as well as the satiety factor. The reduced sodium chicken broth minimizes the amount of sodium, all the while maintaining the same great taste of the dish!
3. Cranberry Sauce
Make your own cranberry sauce! I will admit that I didn't even know one "could" make their own cranberry sauce until I was a teenager. My dad loved "the canned stuff", so that is what we had on the table. Now that I know, I actually love making and eating it! Cranberries are harvested in the fall and are at their peak through December. And I am sure you will agree that fresh from a harvest is always better than fresh out of a can! Take advantage of this delicious fruit that is rich in antioxidants and highly supportive of your digestive tract. Try adding a fresh zest of orange or splash of orange juice to cut the bitterness of the cranberry, and I also like to add cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to spice it up! Better yet, make up your own new family recipe for cranberry sauce and let me know how it turns out.
I will wholeheartedly agree that a Thanksgiving feast is not complete without the whipped cream-loaded Thanksgiving pumpkin pie to finish things off. However, pumpkin is a versatile vegetable that can be used in many different ways. Take advantage of its natural sweetness-roast it in the oven with cinnamon and nutmeg to mimic that pumpkin pie taste! Alternatively, try cooking pumpkin in the oven, then adding veggie or chicken stock + fresh garlic, curry, salt, pepper and coconut milk, and puree it into a curried pumpkin soup. Pumpkin is rich in skin and eye health properties, as well as the many essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs! While you are at it, please save the pumpkin seeds. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them in the oven for 20-30 minutes. They are an easy snack on-the-go that is rich in protein and fiber!
The best things about these swaps is that they don't sacrifice taste or tradition, allowing you to completely enjoy your holiday favorites!
These tips should all seem pretty doable and should also be tasty. Try to anticipate what foods you will crave this holiday season, and work out how to make healthy versions of many of your favorite foods/meals/treats. The trick is to not crave something and prevent yourself from having it. While it can be great to try your best to eat healthfully most of the time, if you want a piece of your Aunt Millie's famous cake, please take, eat and ENJOY a small slice of it. Prohibiting yourself from eating something typically backfires and makes eating "healthy" a "
" rather than simply eating healthy. Again, we, at Nutrition Energy, encourage you to keep your nutrition and health goals in the front of your mind this holiday season and try your best to eat smart while enjoying special times with friends and family.
What to do before or after The Feast
Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family, friends and the close ones you cherish in life. It's often that the vehicle that brings us together for this short time is the food itself. So how can avoid just sitting and enjoying the conversations and food for the entire day and still remain active during the holiday? None of us want to feel tired, lethargic and/or badly about ourselves during the Holidays, right? So, let's all vow (to ourselves and each-other!), to stay active this year on Thanksgiving, and throughout the holiday season.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Organize an active game for the family
- Dodge Ball, Football, or Freeze Tag. Include the entire family in the fun.
- Try to encourage participation from all ages and let everyone do what they can
2. Morning 5k or Turkey Trot
- These events can be found in almost every city and town on Thanksgiving Day, and can be a great family tradition. They are generally first thing in the morning-so you'll have plenty of time to get home to cook, or to get to wherever you are going. We do a family Turkey Trot each year, and I can't wait to do it again this year. If you want to see how our family makes it all fun, follow @NutritionEnergy on Instagram, FaceBook and/or Twitter to see my posts on Thanksgiving-including a family post run pic.
- Find a race and get your day energized and started on the right foot!
3. Take a family walk, bike ride, or hike during half time.
- Many American Thanksgiving traditions include watching football on tv. Instead of retreating directly onto the couch and watching football for the rest of the afternoon and evening, get up and take a walk between games and/or during half-time. You won't miss any of the game and you'll feel a lot better for the second half knowing you just had a 20-minute walk!
4. Go Black Friday shopping!
- Shopping can a great way to fit in some exercise without even realizing it-especially if you can do so on foot as we do here in NYC. Take the stairs, walk the escalators or get off one subway stop early and walk the rest of the way. In addition to working your legs with all the walking, your arms will get a workout from carrying all of your purchases.
Getting up and being active on Thanksgiving is certainly not really about burning the calories you consumed (or will consume) at your holiday meal. Moving our bodies (and possibly even breaking a sweat), will help your body and mind feel better, and help encourage you to make better food choice later (because you feel so good about yourself).If nothing else, getting up a going for a walk after dinner can be a simple way to continue to be active -and possibly even a chance to chat with another like-minded friend or family member who wants to come outside with you.
Below are two tasty side dish recipes for the Thanksgiving table. Both have been inspired and adapted from original recipes:
Yields: 12 servings
- 3-4 pounds of pumpkin (can substitute butternut squash)
- 4 apples (Braeburn, Gala or your personal favorite), unpeeled, cored and sliced
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss pumpkin (or squash), apples, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper in a large bowl. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once, for 30 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven. Stir in sage and continue roasting until very tender and starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes more.
- Transfer about one-third of the pumpkin (or squash) and apples to a blender along with 2 cups broth. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a Dutch oven or large pot and repeat for two more batches. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent splattering, for about 6 minutes.
- Serve each portion topped with a few pomegranate seeds and almonds and enjoy!
Yields: 2-4 salads
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup frozen organic edamame
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds or pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- 1 medium raw beet, peeled
- 1 medium-to-large raw carrot (or 1 additional medium beet), peeled
- 2 cups packed baby spinach or arugula, roughly chopped
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro or mint
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp salt & pepper
- To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
- To cook the edamame: Bring a pot of water to boil, then add the frozen edamame and cook just until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- To prepare the beet(s) and/or carrot: Chop beets and/or carrots into small, 1/2" sized pieces. However, feel free to chop them as finely or coarsely as you want.
- To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together all of the ingredients until emulsified.
- To assemble the salad: In your large serving bowl, combine the almonds/pepitas, cooked edamame, prepared beet(s) and/or carrot, roughly chopped spinach/arugula, cubed avocado and cooked quinoa.
- Finally, drizzle dressing over the mixture (you might not need all of it) and gently toss to combine. Careful to not over mix as you'll end up with a pink salad. Serve and enjoy!
Please follow us on Instagram, FB and Twitter; @NutritionEnergy to see what we are doing, and please also post your pictures from both your Thanksgiving day movement and Thanksgiving day foods. We can't wait to see them!
A Note from Lauren...
As we all know, gatherings with both family and friends tend to revolve around food. Add in holiday dinners, parties, and other celebrations, and the amount of food at these gatherings abundantly grow!
Now, I always indulge in some of my favorite foods during the holidays - as that's usually the only time of the year a particular item may be made. BUT, I always go into the day with a plan so as to no OVER-indulge. Here are some of the ways I prepare for a day of feasting:
1) Hit the Road! I love waking up and going for a morning run in the crisp air. Sometimes one or more of my kids join me making it a great way to spend the beginning of the day! Getting in some activity on a heavy food day not only has physical benefits, but can also aid in relaxation to counteract the possible stresses of the day. Exercise anytime during the day - even if it's brisk walk around the block!
2) Always have a Healthy Breakfast. Eggs with toast, fruit with yogurt - whatever sounds good to you! This helps me stay full during the morning rush and refrain from snacking without thinking when more people (and more food!) arrives!
3) Smart Snacks. I always have a plate of cut veggies out with other appetizers to snack on before the big meal. I try to avoid the heavy dips, sauces, and processed snacks. Other healthy snack ideas are mixed nuts (go easy on the salt!), apple slices (not just for kids!), turkey meatballs, and homemade (or store bought) salsa - both for dipping chips and veggies!
4) Water is your Friend! I enjoy having a glass (or two!) of wine with my Thanksgiving meal. Knowing this, I make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, including water between glasses of wine and lots of water before bed. Not only is hydration generally important, but it will also help keep your digestive system working normally and minimize the amount of bloating following a larger meal.
Need some help navigating the choppy waters of the holidays? We've got your back!
The dietitians at Nutrition Energy can help you with a plan that will safely and healthfully get you through all your holiday indulgences!
What is your favorite holiday indulgence? How do you keep yourself on track? Tweet us @NutritionEnergy or let us know on Facebook!
Lauren Antonucci, Director