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. And many times people struggle to shed the added weight because it’s gained so slowly and too much time passes before healthy eating habits return.
But 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 this Thanksgiving and tips to take away for their long 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. And 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. Our holiday treats can contain some hefty calories. To burn off the calories from one slice of pecan pie, 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 must 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. And you don’t have to put tons of butter inside and out. Try a mixture of olive oil and herbs above and below the skin instead.
- 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 some leaves of sage.
- Mushrooms are a great substitute for sausage in stuffing and other dishes to accommodate your vegetarian friends and family. Wallwork adds a few varieties of mushrooms into his dish to get that array of flavor.
- Struggling with a pomegranate? The secret is to quarter the fruit and then put it in water as you peel it apart. The seeds will float to the top for easy gathering.
- Gravy is 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 even uses his extra cooked veggies, adds the flour to the base, then adds the liquid. He leaves the veggies in for a chunky gravy, or strains them out. 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” with any new substitute to make sure it works before relying on it.
During the recent event, Wallwork helped alter and prepare traditional Thanksgiving meals to be a bit more nutritious. He noted that the 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 the different classes hosted at LPH through its Aspen Club, a program that provides health education, screenings, hospital discounts and social opportunities to residents ages 50-plus through a free membership and access to events in Longmont as well as Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley.
Mary Ann Richardson, who recently moved in with her gluten-free adult daughter, recently attended her second Aspen Club “food” event at Longs Peak Hospital.
“I usually cook what my daughter tells me to cook (because she is gluten-free), so it’s nice to be able to bring something new to the table,” Richardson said. “I’ve learned a few new things in the past two classes, and I’m excited to go home and impress my daughter.”
What Richardson will try first: The quinoa stuffing from the Thanksgiving cookbook she got at the event.
Here is that recipe and more to enjoy this holiday season.
Thanksgiving Holiday Menu