Holiday Meal Planning

Thanksgiving is over – but the Christmas holiday is only just beginning.  Stores are packed, UPS and FedEx are working overtime and holiday baking is in full swing.  Amidst this exciting, yet often chaotic time of year, it is important to remember to stick to a healthy overall meal plan, to keep your energy levels up and immunity strong.  Nourishing yourself with healthy foods, along with getting regular moderate intensity physical activity and plenty of sleep and relaxation time are usually your best bets to warding off sicknesses, managing stress and maintaining your energy levels.

Speaking of immunity, if you still have Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator, it is past time to throw them out.  According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), cooked meat and poultry leftovers are only fresh in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.  Cooked stuffing is fresh about 3-4 days, too.  Gravy is only good for 1-2 days, so definitely throw any away if it is still lingering in your refrigerator.  For more information on food storage safety, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov.

As for the rest of your meal plan, too often, Americans throw a healthy meal plan out the window when the holidays arrive.  However, try to avoid the “all or nothing” mentality.  You can still enjoy a few indulgences here and there, while sticking to an underlying healthy meal plan.  For instance, it is fine to sample the holiday treats that local stores may offer, such as hot chocolate, cookies and pastries.  And, it is even fine to purchase a few for you and your friends or family to enjoy together.  Your body will best manage these discretionary (extra) calories if you are healthy and managing your weight with a basic healthy meal plan.

So, starting your day with a balanced breakfast is a good way to begin.  Think whole grains (in cereals, English muffins, breads, bagels), fruits and proteins.  Combining proteins with carbohydrates at all meals and snacks is the best way to manage hunger and satiety levels, reducing the changes that you will have strong cravings or urges to overeat later in the day.  Popular, healthful breakfast proteins include lowfat dairy products (i.e. milk, yogurt and cheese), dairy alternatives (i.e. soymilk), peanut butter, eggs and egg whites, lean meats and meat alternatives (i.e. soy sausage).  You also get some protein from grains.  Many grain products like cold cereals and breakfast bars contain extra protein (often from milk or soy protein ingredients) and fiber, too.  Fiber is especially helpful in preventing disease and managing satiety levels.

So, as you prepare for a day at the office, at the mall or at home doing chores, remember to keep your breakfast balanced.  Continue to eat healthfully throughout the day, too, and know that in moderate amounts, your body will be able to handle some discretionary calories along the way.  As with any time of the year, we should all focus on balance, variety and moderation to keep us healthy.

Be well,

Julie

Tips To Help You Manage Thanksgiving Menus and Appetites

With Thanksgiving approaching, surely you have given some thought to your holiday menu.  Whether you are dining in or dining out, food seems to be the main reason we even celebrate Thanksgiving anymore.  Menus exist everywhere you turn.  From Martha Stewart to your internet home page, recipes and holiday tips abound, trying to either overdo or lighten your holiday food consumption.

When traditional Thanksgiving menus include all the favorites like turkey, sweet potato casserole, rolls, stuffing, potatoes, butter, gravy and pie, it is hard to fit in anything else – especially that chestnut butternut squash stuffing or broccoli cheese casserole which you found the recipes for just yesterday.  Grocery stores are filled to the brim with all the trimmings, too.  Holiday displays make them all the more enticing, encouraging you to buy more items.

But, taking a minute to step back and remember what Thanksgiving is all about does not hurt.  Sure, it sounds a bit cheesy, but taking the time to be thankful for all the foods we have available to us would not hurt.  And, what about the rest of the season?  After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations take up a good two to three months out of the year.  We do not have to overstuff ourselves this Thanksgiving and on December 25, simply to “fit in” all of the delicious foods the season has to offer.  Why not try one or two new recipes per week, knowing that what you do not eat today will still be around tomorrow.

As for Thanksgiving Day, remind yourself that small samples of a variety of foods are just fine and can fit into a balanced diet.  Our bodies will do a great job managing the food we eat, so long as we are healthy and remember the importance of moderation.  The bonus is that you can have lots of leftovers after Thanksgiving to enjoy the following weekend, thus saving on cooking time for guests and allowing your body to enjoy the flavors of the season without becoming so full that you feel ill.

So, try new recipes this Thanksgiving or stick to your traditional fare.  You may even wish to find ways to lighten your favorite recipes, making them more healthful.  Whichever route you take, balance the table and plate with a color of foods, just as you should the rest of the year.  If you enjoy the excitement of a table full of variety, then go for it.  Just remember to keep your hunger and satiety in check so as to avoid becoming uncomfortably full.  And, know that increasing the emphasis on the importance of gathering with family and friends may be more beneficial to the happiness of your loved ones than whether the turkey came out too dry or whether you had room on the table for another pecan pie.

Be Well,

Julie