Monday, October 1, 2012

Holiday Health

In Canada, Thanksgiving is almost here.  I feel like it seems early this year, but I guess that's because September just flew by.  We have the beautiful colours of Fall on our riverbank and a chill in the air to remind us that the season has changed.

I was on CTV Morning Live last week to discuss the Thanksgiving meal and healthy ways to approach the holiday long weekend.  In case you missed the segment, I wanted to share a few tips today.

First of all, it's important to remember that many traditional Thanksgiving foods are nutritious, you just have to remember to practice variety, moderation, and balance.  To make the most of the holidays, find ways to satisfy yourself without sabotaging yourself.  For many people this means aiming to maintain weight, because it can be hard to lose weight over the holidays.  Many people will gain a pound or so, but the trouble is that it will stick with them.  This can occur because our feasts can be upwards of 3000-4000 Calories at times.

Some basics to keep in mind:
  • keep active - enjoy a walk with family or friends, destress by getting out of the house and remembering that the holiday isn't just about FOOD
  • maintain a basic eating pattern - don't skip meals because then you will arrive for dinner very hungry and less able to make wise choices
  • feel free to modify recipes to reduce the fat, sugar, and salt - there are many ways to add flavours (onions, garlic, fresh herbs, cinnamon, lemon, lime...)
  • survey the dinner choices before you fill your plate; enjoy your favourites that come but once a year and don't waste Calories on food(s) you can have regularly
  • go easy on the alcohol and drink plenty of water instead
  • aim to fill half your plate with vegetables
It's also important to remember food safety, so here are guidelines from the USDA on how to thaw your turkey to prevent food borne illness:
  • refrigerator - allow 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs
  • sink - use cold water allowing 30 minutes per lb and change the water every 30 minutes (cook immediately after thawing)
  • microwave - check your owner's manual and cook immediately after thawing
 As far as food choices go, I also have a few tips for you to keep in mind:
  1. Pumpkin - rich in Beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant (aiding in vision, healthy immune system, healthy skin...) and present in Thanksgiving dessert as pie.  Pumpkin pie is often made with cream, so if making your own you can substitute low fat milk.  A graham cracker crust will also be fewer Calories that a pastry crust, but pumpkin still tends to be less than some varieties because it only has a bottom crust.  Skipping the whipped cream will also save you fat and extra Calories.  Note: you can also enjoy pumpkin in a soup to start your dinner.
  2. Turkey - is a lean source of protein; although the white meat is lower in Calories and fat, the dark meat is higher in some nutrients like iron.  The key is to go easy on portion size and remember that 1 serving is 75g or 2.5 ounces (a deck of cards).  Avoid the self basting turkeys since they've been infused with fat; you can baste with low sodium broth, wine, juice, etc. to further reduce Calories and fat.  
  3. Gravy - made from fat drippings and contains poultry juices so it will contain some nutrients.  Skim off the fat and season with herbs, spices, and pepper.  Again, portion control is key - no need to go swimming in gravy.
  4. Cranberries - contain antioxidants that protect the body's cells from damage and may help reduce your risk of chronic disease.  You can use fresh or dried ones in stuffing, salads, or sauce.  Canned sauces are typically high in sugar resulting in 1/4 cup = 110 Calories.  It's quite simple to make your own and then you can reduce the sugar by at least half.
  5. Potatoes - are high in potassium and fibre (if you leave the skins on).  When making mashed potatoes skip the cream and use low/no salt broth, garlic, and herbs for flavour.  Hold yourself to about 1/2 cup serving to make room for a variety of different coloured vegetables as well.  If using sweet potatoes try roasting with apple juice, a bit of oil, and white wine vinegar rather than smothering in brown sugar and marshmallows.
Include some great steamed or roasted green vegetables (beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and/or a green salad to start.  Remember that you can enjoy leftovers the next day, so you don't need to eat everything at dinner.

Be thankful for your health and all that your body does for you by providing it with activity and nourishment this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching