Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Healthier Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love spending the day with my family and cooking with my mother every year. However, I have never understood the mentality that Thanksgiving is a marathon eating day. Here are some healthy tips to help you enjoy your Thanksgiving favorites with moderation, from cooking in the morning to digesting the meal at night.

How to Make Your Traditional Dishes Healthier…

  • Turkey All it needs is herbs and spices and bath in its own juices. Skip the butter rub.

  • Gravy — Refrigerate the gravy to harden fat. Skim the fat off. This will save a whopping 56 gm of fat per cup.

  • Stuffing — Use a little less bread and add more onions, garlic, celery, and vegetables. Add fruits such as cranberries or apples. Cut down on bread and meats in stuffing. Moisten or flavor with low fat low sodium chicken or vegetable broth and applesauce.

  • Green Bean Casserole Cook fresh green beans with chucks of potatoes or use evaporated fat free milk instead of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.

  • Sweet Potatoes – Skip the butter and added sugar and use evaporated milk and crushed pineapple for sweetness.

  • Mashed Potato Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic or garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter. Try blending half potatoes with half pureed cauliflower.

  • Desserts — Make a crustless pumpkin pie or find low-fat crust recipes. Replace butter and eggs with fruit purees or egg whites. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies or use low-fat milk or in other recipes. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of fattening frosting. Reduce the butter and substitute in some oil instead for less saturated fats.

**For healthy recipe ideas, go to Cookinglight.com or Eatingwell.com

How to Prepare for Yourself for Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Exercise that morning! Make sure to go for a long walk or do a workout routine, yes even if you are cooking. This will help you to burn off the extra calories for the day. Exercise also helps you to feel better about yourself, leading to healthier choices.

  • Move when you are cooking. Put on the radio to dance to or stop or do bicep curls with canned foods. Every calorie burned off helps!

  • Eat sensibly the rest of the day. Choose a light healthy breakfast like eggs and fruit and a salad for lunch, for example, to keep your caloric intake low before you go. Don’t skip meals!

  • Don’t go hungry. Make sure to have a small snack before you go so you are not ravenous when you get to the party or restaurant and see/smell tempting food.

  • If the party requires you to bring a dish, bring something healthy. Offer to bring the salad, lean protein like fish or chicken, or make a healthy and light dessert option, such as angel food cake or fruit salad. Doubtful you will be the only one eating it and most people appreciate having the option to eat healthier at a party.

How to eat less at the holiday meal:

Most importantly: Before you start eating anything, think of your meal like a budget and determine how you want to spend your calories. Do you want an extra roll with dinner or a glass of wine? Alcohol or dessert? Make healthy substitutions to fit into your “budget.” Do you want stuffing or potatoes? Stick to your favorites and try to make your plate ½ full of vegetables, ¼ plate lean proteins, and ¼ plate starch.

  • Serve up or choose healthy appetizers to start instead of the usual suspects. Healthy party starters include protein, fiber, and fruits and vegetables. Here are some ideas for Thanksgiving starters or at any holiday party:

    • Shrimp cocktail

    • Chicken or fish skewers/kebobs, such as chicken satay

    • Salsa with crudités or sliced vegetables

    • Vegetables and 1 tbsp of dip

    • 1 tbsp hummus or other bean dips with whole wheat pita

    • Fruit salad

    • Homemade Sushi

    • Bruschetta with lots of chopped vegetables

    • 1 small palm full of mixed nuts

    • 1 tbsp of guacamole with vegetables or whole wheat pita

When you finally sit down for dinner:

  • Start with a hearty vegetable soup or salad. Fiber keeps you full!

  • Scope out the options before you choose anything. Your best bet is to fill ½ your plate with vegetables, ¼ with lean protein and the last ¼ with your favorites. but stick to one plate full or you can always go back for more veggies!

  • Leave serving dishes in the kitchen instead of on the table. If you don’t see it you won’t eat it, or at least it will take more effort to eat more.

  • Use smaller plate (9” plate) and serving spoons throughout the meal.

  • Use smaller wine glasses and larger water glasses.

  • Limit high calorie alcoholic beverages. Choose wine, straight hard alcohols, mohitos wine or vodka spritzers, and low calorie alcohol options like Skinny Girl Margaritas. Separate drinks with club soda or water and limit yourself to 1 drink maximum for women, 2 drink maximum for men.

  • Space out your alcohol with lots of water and sparkling water

  • Offer to your guests and serve yourself a variety of vegetable dishes and less starchy dishes

  • If you try something and you don’t like it, don’t waste your calories. Stick to your favorites and try to only have 1 plate full.

  • When you go back for second, fill up your plate with vegetables too.

  • Eat slowly! Make your main meal last at least 20 minutes.

  • Cut your pie or cakes into smaller slices and serve a fruit salad as well. Again, fiber keeps you full

  • Share options. Everyone can grab a spoon and have a bite of dessert.

  • Take the focus off the food. Enjoy great conversation and the company and you will want to eat less.

After the meal…

  • Try not to sleep right after the meal! Instead, keep on moving. Go for a walk after or play football to burn more calories.

  • Don’t stress or feel guilty about your food choices. Relax and enjoy your small indulgence. There is no such thing as a good food or bad food, only sometimes treats and everyday foods.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Green Apple or Asian Pear? Oh no wait…Quince!

Recently, a very dear friend of mine had a great new fruit that I had never heard of…a green apple? Asian pear? No, something in between: quince!!

Why have you done a good thing?

Quince is a wonderfully tart yellow, pear shaped fruit. Quince has been shown to have a rich source of anti-allergic and anti-viral properties reducing symptoms of allergies. Quince also has a large amount of tannins, (giving quince its tart taste) which bind to cancer carrying toxins and chemicals, protecting you against cancer. Quince also contains 25% of your daily vitamin C requirement, helping to build your immunity in the winter months. Quince is also a great source of vitamin A, reducing night blindness. Quince is rich in fiber, helping to keep your bowel movements regular, reduce your cholesterol, and reduce your risk for certain cancers. And overall, introducing new fruits into your diet like quince, increases the variety of fruits and vegetables you have in your diet = more vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants!

How to pick and store a quince:

Choose a quince that is bright golden yellow. Store them in the refrigerator. Or pick up quince jam spreads, also delicious!

What do they taste like?

Quince have a tart taste when raw but when cooked, quince tastes like a tart (green) apple with the texture of a pear.

Quince Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas:

  • Serve quince jam with manchego cheese and whole wheat crackers as an appetizer
  • Glaze meats and poultry (like your turkey) with quince syrup – Cook 2 lbs of quartered fresh quince in 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water with 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Simmer until pale pink in color. Strain and marinade meats or poultry in syrup and roast with cooked quince! Try this great Quince Turkey recipe from Martha Stewart:
  • Make roasted pears, apples, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, parsnips and quince for an easy side dish
  • Try this spin on cranberry sauce
  • Try roasting quince with your sweet potatoes
  • Want to try a new spin on a traditional Thanksgiving classic? Try apple and quince pie this year
  • For a fancy fake-out, try making poached quince for a low-calorie dessert

Other recipe ideas with quince:

  • For a traditional Mediterranean dish using quince, try Moraccan Lamb Stew
  • Spread quince jam with almond butter on whole wheat bread for a fancy spin on pb and j
  • Try making quince applesauce to top on whole wheat pancakes, waffles, to mix into oatmeal, or for the little ones!

So look to quince for a great new spin on a Thanksgiving favorite this year. Adding some new spice to an old classic makes the holidays just that much more fun!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oh You Sweet Conehead...

Aren’t we always looking for sweets sans the calories? Often times we are torn between “natural” sugar sources that have calories and artificial sweeteners that don’t have calories but definitely have some unnatural ingredients. Well guess what, here is a way that you don’t have to make that tough choice: Piloncillo! AKA Panela of Panocha. This is a sugar originating from Mexico that is a natural form of pure cane sugar. That’s right- no additives, no refinement, no coloring! It is made by crushing sugar canes, collecting the juice that falls, boiling it, and then shaping it (mainly into different size cones). And to make this sweeter: it contains less calories than any other sugar or natural sweetener (i.e. honey, molasses, maple syrup, etc.)! Only 15-20 calories per tablespoon, to be exact (as compared to other sugars and natural sweeteners that have between 30-60 calories per tablespoon)!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Our body wants sweets- what’s a girl to do? Eat them, of course! But by consuming natural sugar sources you are treating your body right by not subjecting it to too many ingredients that are unrecognizable. Although no cause or effect has been proven, research does show a correlation, in that people who consume lots of artificial sweeteners (via diet sodas, diet foods, etc.) tend to be heavier and at a greater risk for obesity that people who consume less artificial sweeteners. Some research also suggests (but has definitely not proven) that when we consume these artificial sweeteners, our body does a “fake-out” leaving us craving the real thing even more. Plus, some recent (preliminary) research suggests that their just may an association between artificial sweeteners and stroke- oh no!

So, by substituting piloncillo sugar for table sugar, brown sugar (which can often just be table sugar + molasses for coloring- how rude!) or artificial sweeteners, you can give your body real food without adding a ton of extra calories. And just what happens to extra calories from sugar once we ingest them? I hate to be the barrier of bad news- but they take a little trip to our liver, and then take a one-way flight to our fat cells- where they stay until we work them off!

What exactly do I do with this odd cone-shaped sugar?

Well, I have to say that it is very hard to grind yourself (speaking from experience!)

So…most places sell it ground, as well- which I would recommend. From there, the possibilities are endless. You can use it in your coffee or tea, in your cereal, in your bakes goods, in cooking, and even to sweeten a salad dressing. Really- just about anywhere you would use table sugar or artificial sweeteners!

Sad to see the pumpkins go? Try this recipe to make your very own (very Mexican) sweet pumpkin dessert. Here it is, complements of About.com

Look for Piloncillo in gourmet food stores, specialty markets, and international supermarkets. Now that you know about this sweet hidden gem, go seek out and sub it out in your favorite foods!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN