Healthy Holidays, friends!!
For many, the holiday season is filled with family, friends, and food. For some, it’s a time to indulge, while for others it can be an intimidating time, especially for those who are currently working on losing or maintaining weight and/or following a specific way of eating. If you happen to be one of those people, hopefully some of the suggestions I have will come in handy!
I’m a firm believer that the holidays should be as stress free as possible, so for me personally, that means planning in advance. To do so, I typically ask questions of the person in charge of whatever the holiday meal is. For instance, my mother is running the show this Thanksgiving. So, I’ll discuss the planned menu with her a few days prior and then figure out what will and won’t work for my current way of eating (which happens to be low carb). Sometimes there is something on the menu that I can offer to substitute for a lower carb option. For instance, rather than mashed potatoes, serving mashed cauliflower. On the off chance there may be people in attendance who are dead set on their mashed potatoes, I’d make the mashed cauliflower too, so it could be an option as well as mashed potatoes. If you feel that the majority of food that will be available won’t fit into your diet, offer to bring some additional options!
Ingredient swaps can be a great way to lighten up some dishes, if lowering fat content is your goal. Some easy swaps are egg whites instead of whole eggs, Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, milk for cream. Other swaps include using whole wheat flour in place of white flour, Stevia for sugar, applesauce in things like brownies rather than white sugar, zoodles (zucchini noodles) for pasta, and as mentioned above, cauliflower for potatoes. I’ve even made a mean mock potato salad using chunks of cauliflower instead of potato, and it was a big success! (https://www.skinnytaste.com/low-carb-potato-salad/)
Keep in mind that even if your plate is overflowing with healthy foods, it’s still overflowing. Educating yourself about portion sizing can be extremely helpful when building your meal. You can use your hand as a reference for portions. The recommended meat portion should be around 3-4oz, or the size of your palm. Salad dressings, sour cream, peanut butter and hard cheeses should be about 1-2 tablespoons, or about the size of your thumb. A half of a cup, which is the recommendation for rice, pasta, beans, potatoes and cooked vegetables is a cupped hand. For fresh fruit, raw veggies, soup and salads, one fist equals the recommended 1 cup. Butter and oils should be used sparingly, about the size of the tip of your thumb, from the base of your thumbnail up, which is right around 1 teaspoon.
It’s important to keep in mind that no diet or way of eating should make you feel deprived. If there’s something specific you’re craving, and it doesn’t completely fit into your diet, having a small portion of anything isn’t going to be the end of the world. (But do keep in mind that if your body has adjusted to an “elimination” of some type of food, such as sugar, reintroducing it -may- result in a tummy ache!) The average weight gain for people eating normally, not on a diet, during the holidays is only 1-2lbs. I really believe that you shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying food, as so often that guilt can further push unhealthy choices. Acknowledge that you’ve made the choice for yourself, and if you feel it’s necessary, come up with a plan for how to negate it with some exercise!
Below I’ve included some of my own tried and true healthy recipes that have been raved about by friends and family alike. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
-Caprese Appetizer Bites-
8oz tub of fresh mozzarella balls
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
20 grape tomatoes, cut in half
40 basil leaves
Box of Toothpicks
Directions: Drain mozzarella bites well. Cut each one in half. In a bowl, toss them with olive oil and Italian seasoning (plus salt and pepper to taste if you wish. For a kick, you could use spicy red pepper flakes rather than pepper!). Using a toothpick, alternate half of a mozzarella ball, a folded basil leaf, half of a cherry tomato, half of a mozzarella ball, a folded basil leaf, and the other half of the cherry tomato. Repeat 20 times, for 20 appetizers total.
-Roasted Green Beans with Lemon, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries and Goat Cheese-
2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed off
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss green beans with oil and lemon zest. Next, spread evenly on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast the green beans in the oven until they just begin to turn light brown in spots, about 15 minutes. Stir the beans well and top with the dried cranberries and crushed walnuts. Continue to roast until beans are tender, about 5-7 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and sprinkle goat cheese crumbles evenly over the dish. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve.
-Fall Apple Cinnamon Pecan Bites-
24 Wonton wrappers
2 medium apples, cored and diced small.
1/4 cup small pecan pieces (chopped)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp Butter
5 Tbsp sugar * (divided in half)
1 Tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
*Feel free to use a sugar substitute as well, just be aware of any measuring adjustments that may need to be made.
(A Mini Muffin pan(s) is needed for this recipe)
Preheat oven to 375*. Lay wonton wrappers out on a large piece of parchment paper/saran wrap. Mist wonton wrapperss with cooking spray.
In a bowl, mix 2.5 tbsp of sugar or sugar substitute, and the cinnamon. Using your fingers, evenly sprinkle mixture over the sprayed wonton wrappers. Flip wonton wrappers over and repeat (spray and sprinkle). Note: There WILL be some sugar/cinnamon mixture left over, and that’s okay, as you’ll use it later. Set aside.
Gently press wonton wrappers as centered as possible into each mini muffin cup. Creases will occur, that’s fine. Pop in the preheated oven for 6 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, mix diced apples, pecans & cranberries in a bowl. In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat, adding apple mixture slowly, tossing in melted butter. Cook uncovered, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
In a small dish, combine 2.5 tbsp sugar or sugar substitute, cloves, and cornstarch.
Add this, and the water, to the saucepan with the butter and apple mixture, mix well, and cover. Once liquid starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and let sauce thicken (3 minutes). Remove from heat and using a spoon, scoop mixture into the wonton wrapper cups, filling them evenly. Then, using the reserved sugar/cinnamon mixture from before, sprinkle a bit on top of each one. Bake for an additional 3 minutes. Take out and enjoy!