First, there is the Thanksgiving feast. Then, Christmas treats followed by New Year’s parties and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.
It’s “food season,” the time from Thanksgiving to Easter.
“This is when people usually gain 1 to 5 pounds,” said Kimberly Jordan, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at UCHealth Longmont Clinic. People often struggle to shed the added weight because it’s gained so slowly and too much time passes before healthy eating habits return.
Jordan, along with chef Matt Wallwork, general manager of Nutrition Services at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital, teamed up to provide northern Colorado residents with a sample of healthy meals for Thanksgiving and tips for the journey though “food season.”
Tips for healthy holiday eating:
Try a smaller plate. Our actual plate size today — about 12 inches in diameter — is several inches larger and holds about double the potential calories (1,900 compared to 800) than plates used in the 1960s. Try using a salad or kid’s plate at your next meal.
Fill up with the good (for you) foods. Eat a salad first, or fill at least half your plate with vegetables.
Give yourself time. It takes about 15 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know you are full, Jordan said. So if you scarf down your meal in only 5 minutes and then head back for seconds, you’re not giving your body enough time to see if it’s even satisfied by your first bites. Try giving yourself at least 10 minutes before you go back for seconds.
Eat mindfully. Think about the BASICS of mindful eating.
B – Breathe and belly check for hunger and satiety before you eat.
A – Assess your food.
S – Slow down.
I – Investigate your hunger throughout your meal, particularly halfway through.
C – Chew your food thoroughly.
S – Savor your food.
More talking, less drinking. Alcohol is an appetite stimulant, so cutting consumption will help you cut the munching, Jordan said. By talking with others, you’re spending less time with food in your mouth.
Bring your own healthy dish. Double bonus: You’re not showing up empty-handed, and you know there will be at least one item you can eat guilt-free. Jordan enjoys the recipes she finds at Diabetes Food Hub.
Take a walk. Get out with your guests, your kids, or your dog for a walk — before you eat, after you eat, or both. Holiday treats can contain hefty calories. To burn off the calories from one slice of pecan pie, for instance, you’ll need to walk for at least 90 minutes. One ounce of fudge will take about 19 minutes to burn. But don’t be discouraged and think you have to carve out a two-hour window for a walk — any walk is better than none.
Another key to remember: “Holiday eating is about how much and how often (not necessarily the what),” Jordan advised.
Here are some tips Wallwork shared about cooking:
- Applesauce can be a substitute for a fat (such as butter) in a recipe. Also, try apple cider instead of water to add extra flavor in your dish.
- Brine your turkey for great flavor. You don’t have to put tons of butter inside and out. Instead, try a mixture of olive oil and herbs above and below the skin.
- Make your table decor edible. A bell pepper can be cut and stuffed with salad greens to make a nice decor and edible salad, or stuff a small roasted squash with berries and add sage leaves.
- To accommodate your vegan and vegetarian friends, mushrooms are a great substitute for sausage in stuffing.
- Does your recipe call for pomegranate? The secret is to quarter the fruit and then put it in water as you peel it apart. The seeds float to the top for easy gathering.
- Gravy is all about how you build it. Use all the flavor from drippings so you’re not having to add extra fat. (But if you do need extra fat, Wallwork uses canola oil rather than olive oil because the flavor doesn’t need to be in the oil in this case.) Wallwork uses his extra cooked veggies, adds flour to the base, and then adds liquid. He leaves the veggies in for a chunky gravy and strains them out for a smoother gravy. Think 1:1 fat to flour to make a rue, then add 4 to 5 cups of liquid.
- Wallwork said he always conducts a “test run” when using any new substitute to make sure it works before relying on it.
While preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals to be a bit more nutritious, Wallwork noted that changes to the traditional recipes were to main dishes, not desserts.
“Desserts are so good the way they are, so enjoy them just the way they are — just take a smaller portion,” said Julie Adams, manager of volunteer services at Longs Peak Hospital.
Julie helps manage classes hosted at LPH through the Aspen Club, a program that provides health education, screenings, hospital discounts and social opportunities to residents ages 50-plus. A free membership allows access to events in Longmont, Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley.
Here is that recipe and more to enjoy this holiday season.
Thanksgiving Holiday Menu