H&F: Lighten Your Holiday Diet

Written by Lindsay Whelchel in the November 2010 Issue

Let’s face it, no matter how much we love the cooler weather and bountiful merriment of the holidays, we all fear that as our hearts expand with holiday cheer, so too, will our waistlines.

Being more conscious about our health, doesn’t have to make us less satisfied when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.

Edmond chef, Shauna Petty, is a self-proclaimed butter lover. But even so, she does have a few tips for serving up healthy holiday food that is not only delicious, but is better for you. “Everybody equates holidays with huge meals,” said Petty.

One staple ingredient in those meals is potatoes, from baked to mashed to sweet. While potatoes are indeed a vegetable, Petty advises to stick with other fresh and simple veggie ideas, like taking common favorites such as green beans, buying them fresh and sautéing them with olive oil and garlic.

“For me, anytime I’m making something fresh, I feel like I’m doing something that’s better for myself and for my family,” she said.  This tasty alternative will have a lot less calories than the traditional canned green beans stewed with bacon fat.

Petty also cautions against the stereotypical use of green beans in a green bean casserole. “I would suggest that people stay away from anything that’s called a casserole,” she laughs. Petty insists that the value of these foods in their original state is much greater. “Vegetables can be delicious not deep fried or smothered in gravy,” she said.

One way to lighten the calories in your dessert recipe, is to spray the food with a no-calorie pan spray instead of brushing the food with butter. Stacy Buzan is a Registered Dietician at Central Fitt in Edmond. According to her, you can also substitute a non trans-fatty acid margarine (such as Smart Balance brand) or vegetable oil (such as canola oil) when a recipe calls for butter or shortening.

“Most people are caught between the decision of eating healthier or holiday eating, when there is a way to do both,” she said. To reduce calories, you can even substitute white sugar with Splenda sugar blend or even a brown sugar blend for another option.

It is important to keep in mind that 3,500 calories equals one pound, says Edmond Registered and Licensed Dietician, Joseph Holtzclaw with Transformation Fitness, who acknowledges that the during holidays, a person can easily pack on the pounds without realizing it.

“You’re going to be hit up with so many different things. Like at work, you’ll have two or three different little parties, plus people bring random desserts because everyone is baking… Then you’re going to get hit with family gatherings,” he said, as the list goes on and on.

This is how it becomes easy to eat an extra dessert two or three times a week during the holidays. Suddenly, you’ve gained weight because your body is not used to the elevated calorie count, according to Holtzclaw, who preaches moderation with sweets. “You need to pick which ones are most important, because if you eat them all, that’s what the problem is,” he said.

As for the ingredients within the foods you decide to eat, a lot can be said for pure and original. Epicurean’s Pantry in Edmond is an artisan food store that seeks to give people healthier options when it comes to ingredients.

“One main philosophy I have, is that the foods should all be clean and pure,” said Leah Haskins, store owner. She said with her foods you can read all of the labels on the back without the words being too impossible to understand.

Epicurean’s Pantry carries many needed ingredients for holiday baking, including pure cocoa and vanilla as well as cinnamon. Haskins believes fresh spices help avoid the taste diminishing while in warehouse storage.
And if you’re still set on finding a way to make those sweet potatoes and green bean casseroles, Haskins said they have various options, such as mushrooms, olive oil and vinegar to ensure your original recipe can be twisted toward a healthy spin.

So whatever you plan to cook, and whatever you plan to eat, the key appears to be fresh and pure coupled with moderation. This way of eating can still be delightful to your taste buds and carry you lightly into a healthier new year. 

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