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Holiday meal choices 101…

thanksgiving-cornucopia

With the millions of recipes available to you via a google search you will surely find many options this holiday season. And how will you choose your meals if you are watching your diet for health reasons? Well lets go over some of your options shall we?

Option A: Make all your favorites in their original format despite their potential high calorie/ sugar content

Option B: Modify your regular holiday recipes to make them lower in calorie/ sugar/ fat

Option C: Make all your favorites in their original format despite their potential high calorie / sugar content while adding lots of vegetables for appetizers and a nice salad in addition to all your favorite sides.

There are a couple of potential problems with the holiday season. At the top of this list… we are surrounded by candy/ cookies essentially from October through December. That is three months each year of us consistently having to consciously choose NOT to eat delicious sugary treats that are staring us in the face. You’ll notice that between January and September it is relatively easier to avoid sweets since there are no cultural traditions surrounding eating sweets as a means of celebrating. With the exception of one week in February. So how do we responsibly select our dishes to be served at our holiday meals? Assuming you yourself is cooking/ hosting. Well the answer is going to depend on the person. If you have a family that you think will tolerate new healthier versions of old family favorites then maybe that could work. I know in my family (on both sides) this would not work. We all have a dish or two that we would not tolerate being absent at a holiday! Who wants Christmas with out Aunt Susan’s chocolate cream pie?? Not any Cantin (my side of the family) that I know. And I have been known to insist on bringing to holiday meals my fully loaded pumpkin pie from scratch made with real heavy whipping cream, sugar, butter and a roasted pie pumpkin. Am I giving that up even during a year in which I am watching my dietary choices? NO WAY. Call me a bad nutritionist. I like my real home made pumpkin pie. In fact, I like my holiday dishes made in the traditional recipes all around rather that a lower calorie version. I’m OK with the lower calorie recipes the remaining 363 days a year. Most of them are actually VERY TASTEY!! But not on Thanksgiving nor Christmas. So I’d go for Option C, adding in vegetables where possible to the classically prepared holiday meal and adding in plenty of water drinking.

Here’s the thing people… it takes on average about 3500 consumed extra calories to gain a pound. Is it possible to eat 3500 calories on thanksgiving day? Oh yes. Does this mean you will gain a pound? Maybe. But what else is going on on Thanksgiving day? And what about the remainder of the week following Thanksgiving? How about scheduling in some physical activity thanksgiving morning? Can someone else do the morning shift of cooking while you partake in some type of movement? What about the rest of the week, can you schedule in some more physical activity than you normally would?

Then there’s the leftovers. This is where the dietary goals might become more problematic honestly. You have that fabulous pie staring at you everytime you open the fridge, you have those decadent side dishes (some of which are basically desserts… I’m looking at you sweet potatoes) and gravy, and turkey OH MY! Instead of eating thanksgiving dinner over and over and over again for 4-5 days on end how about sending home some of those sweet potatoes, pies and gravy’s with others? Or just get rid of them by either freezing them or throwing them out. GASP!! I know, many people hate throwing out food. But if its going to seriously derail your health goals for an entire week …I suggest you get rid of some of that stuff.

How can we incorporate vegetables and why? Because they are chock full of nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and they are low in calories. This means that you can provide your body with some healthy compounds prior to the dinner that will provide your cells and liver with protective mechanisms while also providing your digestion with some healthy fiber that will help you stay fuller for longer and makes you less likely to over eat. Wouldn’t that be nice? The whole idea is balancing out that decadent meal as best you can. Sure it’s alright to indulge over the holidays! But do what you can to mix in some healthy fresh foods to the mix along with some physical activity and water drinking. How about some cucumber and pepper slices in place of crackers for those dips? How about a hummus dip along with or in place of the creamy dips? Roasted asparagus spears, Fruit platters with tooth picks and yogurt dips. You get the idea? Tomorrow I will post one of my favorite fall salad recipes. Stay tuned and stay healthy.