Are You Ready for the Holiday Overeating Season?

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday overeating season. But actually, we’ve been having to resist the temptation at the supermarket for months, with Halloween candy showing up on shelves in August and holiday baking displays popping up in September.

Yes, the holiday overeating season starts earlier every year! How are your clients supposed to keep holiday treats as treats when these foods are around for months before the holiday itself? We have just what you need to help your clients this holiday season. Here are a few favorites to get you started. Use these as jumping-off points for your topics or purchase our ready-made materials:

  • Food for Thought: Our Holiday Exercise poster will make you think before you reach for that extra holiday treat. It shows how long you have to do various exercises to burn off the calories in two-holiday cookies, and how long you need to walk to burn the calories from other holiday treats like pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and eggnog.
    • This poster also comes as a downloadable color handout. There’s a quiz on the back to help your clients find out if they are active enough and help them fit exercise into a busy holiday schedule.
  • Survivor–Holiday Edition: Our Holiday Survival Tips poster is a fun look at holiday dangers we all face – fattening family feasts, office party pig-outs, lazy days, comfort foods – and tips to survive them. The poster comes with a free handout on how to lighten up holiday cooking and the Best Light Pumpkin Pie recipe!
  • The One & Only MyPlate: Our MyPlate Holiday poster really says it all. If your clients can remember to put more fruits and veggies on their plates throughout the holiday season, that will take them far when it comes to eating healthfully. This colorful poster comes with a free downloadable color handout MyPlate 4 Step Plan for the Holidays.
  • Lighten & Brighten: You’re going to love our Fruit and Veggie Holiday Lights Buttons! Give them to your clients to remind them to brighten up and lighten up their holiday with fruits and vegetables. Be sure to save one for yourself!

SIX Healthy Tips for July 4th

It must be “human nature” but even those who do a good job of healthy eating at other times seem to resort back to “traditional” foods on holidays. These foods are typically chocked full of empty calories, fats and sugars.

Rethinking the menu and “tweaking” your shopping list a little can take your 4th of July meal from calorie overload to healthful.

July 4th Healthy Holiday Tip #1—Lighten up. Can you substitute some ingredients when making favorite recipes? Gotta have potato salad?  Use non-fat plain Greek yogurt, nonfat sour cream or low-fat mayo for part of the regular mayo in the dressing. Or look for a new kind of veggie salad that uses a light vinaigrette instead of one that is bathed in high fat mayo or salad dressing.

July 4th Healthy Holiday Tip #2- Double or triple-up on veggies. Set out a series of vegetable platters or arrangements instead of cheese or antipasto plates.  Make sure you have lettuce and tomatoes as sandwich toppers. Try roasted vegetables or vegetable kabobs on the grill. Corn-on-the cob (roast with olive oil and seasonings and forget the melted butter).

July 4th Healthy Holiday Tip #3 – Pick some whole grain products.  Select whole grain buns, whole grain tortillas or whole wheat pita bread for sandwiches.  Whole grain chips and salsa can be an alternative to fried potato chips and dip.

July 4th Healthy Holiday Tip #4—Look for lean protein. How about fish patties or crab cakes instead of burgers?  Grill salmon instead of steak. Instead of brats or hog dogs on the grill go for grilled skinless chicken. For a fun and colorful entrée put hunks of chicken on skewers with the vegetables—this also helps reduce portion sizes and cooking time—and adds even more vegetables to the meal.

July 4th Healthy Holiday Tip #5—Burn those calories. Don’t forget to pack games and balls. Start a new tradition of a family softball or volley ball game. Walking and/or throwing Frisbees are also great activities that can involve family members of all ages.

July 4th Healthy Holiday Tip #6—Enjoy the company of family and friends.  Remember what we’re celebrating at this holiday. Don’t just focus on food and eating. Be mindful of the non-food intangibles like music, games and fireworks.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Reposting about Turkey

For food writers everywhere the month of November seems to demand that we write about preparing that Thanksgiving meal….including the big bird. This whole process may seem daunting for those that only roast a turkey one time a year. The big meal means lots of food which can result in potential food safety problems—there just never seems to be enough room in the refrigerator to keep it safe. And then what to do with the leftovers?
Over the past several years we’ve posted on this blog numerous articles about these topics. Instead of trying to find a new twist this year….we’re “reposting” some of the more popular Thanksgiving related articles.

Lean Protein: Spotlight on Turkey – Turkey can be a good source of inexpensive low-fat protein. This is a good time of the year to catch a sale on turkey, if you have the space, why not put a one or two in the freezer?
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/lean-protein-spotlight-turkey/

Three Turkey Tips – quick tips about washing the turkey, pink meat near the bones and the best temperature to use a a guide to know when you’re turkey’s done. Includes a handout, too!
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/three-turkey-tips/

How NOT to Thaw that Turkey –don’t try these at home! Sometimes people try the unusual (and frequently not-so-safe) methods for thawing their turkeys. Recommendations for safe thawing, too. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/how-not-to-thaw-that-turkey/

Thanksgiving Quiz or You Want to do What with that Turkey? Five question quiz (along with the answers) on turkey food safety including tips on thawing the turkey and what to do when it’s till frozen the day before Thanksgiving. Includes a PDF of the quiz.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thanksgiving-quiz/

How old is that Turkey? Advice on what to do with that year-old turkey in your freezer. Spoiler alert: cook it! Post includes tips for those who (obviously) don’t cook turkey that often.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/how-old-is-that-turkey/

All Over But the Leftovers— A five question quiz that reinforces the basics of safe Thanksgiving (and year round) leftover practices. Another PDF quiz included.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/all-over-but-the-leftovers

Early November Checklist –Think ahead with these ideas that can make the shopping, storing and cooking that Thanksgiving dinner easier, including cleaning out the freezer and finding your food thermometer.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/early-november-checklist/

Thinking About Turkey—a few last minute thoughts about that Thanksgiving turkey including what to do if your forgot to thaw out the turkey and healthy turkey “tradeoffs.” https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thinking-about-turkey/

Please feel free to print and share these articles and handouts with your clients.
May you have a happy, healthy and food safe holiday.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Check out our new menu planning items:

Real-World Strategies for Dealing with Office Treats

A couple of weeks ago a co-worker sent this email to everyone in the office:  “There are three types of pie and a can of whipped cream in the fridge!  Pumpkin, Apple, and Pecan, please help me get rid of them!!”

This is what’s being called: food dumping. Like most people, I’ve been guilty of food dumping, but also and I’ve also been the victim.

Food dumping is when you bring party leftovers, unwanted food gifts or just extra treats into the office break room. Sometimes it’s not really unwelcome food but a special treat for your co-workers or a neighboring office as a holiday gift. No matter why it’s there, it seems most office break rooms are filled with food this time of year.

First off I guess I need to congratulate my co-worker and all “food dumpers” for realizing that they really don’t want all that extra food sitting around their house.  But this doesn’t encourage or help your coworkers to eat more healthful.

OK, I don’t want to be a real humbug about this and say that no one should have special holiday goodies.  Being realistic, I know it’s going to happen. What can you do if you really are trying to be heathful?

Here are a couple thoughts to help you take control of the situation:

  • Encourage a “no dumping” policy at the office. If people do want to share special recipes or treat, perhaps set up a schedule or calendar of when each person or office is welcomed to bring something. This may eliminate the overflowing trays and possibly waste.
  • OUT OF SIGHT-OUT OF MIND. If they MUST bring candies and cookies, ask that they be hidden or at least covered.
  • If the snacks and goodies sitting around the break room are just too tempting for you, one solution is to try to avoid that room altogether.
  • If you’re co-workers aren’t on board, at least you can control your office and your desk. Have healthy snacks in your desk so you won’t be starved and tempted when you see a large plate of treats hanging out by the copier.
  • Start your day off right with a healthy breakfast so you won’t be as tempted as you might be when you head for the second cup of coffee. Keep the breakfast light and healthy so if you do want to snack there will be a place for it in your healthy diet.
  • Keep a pair of exercise shoes in the office to take walking breaks.

One more thing, I couldn’t let the idea of food sitting around go without mentioning some food safety issues:

  • Perishable foods should be kept at room temperature for no more than two hours. If it’s out longer than that the food should be pitched.
  • Label foods with ingredients—especially nuts and gluten—for those with allergies and intolerances.
  • Label foods with dates, too. This will eliminate “mystery foods” in a couple of days. Most perishable items should be pitched after four days.

There may be other options instead of food dumping. Could you share food gifts with charitable institutions, nursing homes or women’s shelters that may not have any treats? Unfortunately, due to food safety issues, many may not be able to accept homemade or opened food items.  Think about what foods would freeze well for later when they would be more appreciated and enjoyed.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Healthful Holiday Substitutions

It’s totally possible to have healthful and fun holiday celebrations.

Just don’t eat everything in sight.

CookiesI know this seems like a no-brainer, but the holidays are all about balance. Overindulgence is the actual pitfall.

What got me thinking about this? Well, I’ve seen several Facebook posts this past week about cookie baking. Two different friends posted photos of their families baking together.

While you may expect me to say “Bah Humbug” to these events, I actually think they’re wonderful. What a great way to spend time together, and what a delightful holiday tradition!

I’m also not going to say “don’t eat those cookies, they aren’t good for you.”

Okay. I admit that that thought did go through my mind, but I’m trying to be realistic.  You can’t give up all your favorites. I’ve seen several articles already recommending that you go ahead and eat some cookies or other holiday treats — just do so in moderation. Feeling like a martyr about food tends to backfire.

Now I’m not suggesting that you make every food “free” or  “no calorie,” but go ahead and have a little bit of your holiday favorites.

And what about the rest of the holiday foods? Well, that’s where substitution comes in.

There are plenty of ways to replace particular ingredients in order to make holiday treats more healthful. With these substitutions, I promise, no one will know the difference. In some cases it’s not even what you’re taking out but what you’re putting in that counts.

Let’s look at an example. A couple of weekends ago, we had some friends over for brunch. The featured item was waffles. These weren’t just any old waffles from a mix, and they were definitely not freezer waffles. Instead, these were yeasted waffles that needed time to rise. You have to wake up early to get them going before your guests get up. The recipe calls for eggs, milk, sugar, flour, yeast, and lots of butter.

I did not destroy these waffles. I did not replace every ingredient. Instead, I made a few slight tweaks. I used skim milk instead of whole milk, and I substituted part whole grain flour for some regular white flour. These waffles were so good that they didn’t need butter or syrup. Instead I topped mine with fresh fruit.

Here’s another example. I recently made stuffing using slightly different ingredients. I began with whole grain bread instead of white bread. Then, instead of the eggs and butter from my mom’s traditional recipe, I tried adding leftover mashed pumpkin.

The stuffing was amazing. The changes I made increased the fiber content of each serving, added a vegetable to the mix, and boosted the flavor too. Who would have guessed that I could make such great changes to a previously fat-loaded family favorite without a single complaint?

Looking for more modifications? Try these…

Replace heavy cream with fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk.

Replace a portion of white flour with 100% whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour, by King Arthur, has the best results and can almost be replaced 100%.

In most recipes, you can slightly reduce the amount of sugar. Compensate with an extra dash of sweet flavorings like vanilla extract or cinnamon. These give a hint of sweetness without the calories.

Use fewer chocolate chips or substitute dried fruits or nuts instead.

Did you know that two large egg whites can replace one whole egg?

Combine 1/4 cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup butter to replace 1 cup of butter in a recipe.

What else am I up to in our holiday kitchen? Well actually, our family requested a really non-traditional holiday food this year for Christmas. They want low-country  “Shrimp and Grits.”

I’m exploring ways to make this dish a little lighter. Right now I’m planning to use broth instead of butter, more onions, and maybe some celery.  I think I’ll add more seasonings for flavor and use a little less bacon. Of course, there will still be shrimp and it will still be served on stone-ground grits.

There are lots of tips out there for ways to modify recipes, make changes, and eat healthfully, even during the holidays. Be mindful. Just don’t eat everything in sight.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Holiday Health Challenge Preview

Have you had a moment to check out the Holiday Wellness Challenge?

The Holiday Wellness Challenge offers a fun way keep your clients on track during the holiday season. After all, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans gain an average of .4 to 1.8 pounds each year during the holidays. With a little know-how and some fun strategies, this weight gain can be avoided.

To get the details about the Holiday Wellness Challenge, check out the post Holiday Wellness Challenge over in the Food and Health blog.

And for an even closer look, I want to offer a preview of one of the chapters today!

Here’s the first handout from Chapter Five: Jump Start Your Breakfast. Feel free to download it and distribute as you see fit!

Jump Start Breakfast

Why Care About Breakfast?

Life is busy, and busy often ups its game during the holidays. Between parties, family projects, decorations, and shopping, something has to give. Breakfast should not be it.

Why? Here are some top reasons to care about breakfast…

  • Breakfast offers key nutrients that will give you energy. Plus, with the right foods, you won’t get hungry on your way to holiday activities and errands.
  • Furthermore, when you make healthful choices at breakfast, you start the day on the right foot. It’s easier to stick to good habits that way.

Breakfast Facts:

Having breakfast every morning kick-starts your metabolism.

Studies indicate that people who eat breakfast in the morning are less likely to get diabetes.

78% of the people in the National Weight Control Registry make a healthful breakfast part of their daily routine.

Breakfast is associated with a lower BMI, fewer calories consumed during the day, and a better diet.

Breakfast is a great opportunity to increase your consumption of fiber, whole grains, fruit, and low-fat dairy.

A healthful breakfast not only gives you energy, but also increases cognitive function.

Are Your Holidays Healthful? A Quiz

Do you keep your holiday celebrations good for your health? Find out with this brand-new quiz!

Questions:

Dancing at a Party1. What is the most featured item in the display of foods at your holiday party?

a) Cookies
b) Meats
c) Fruits and vegetables
d) Cheeses

2. True or false? I make sure to get at least some physical activity during most days of the week.

3. Some smart ways to control portion size at meals include…

a) Making a healthy plate.
b) Sharing a meal
c) Being aware of the calorie content of the foods you purchase.
d) All of the above

4. True or false? I make sure to eat a healthful high-fiber breakfast every morning.

Answers:

Holiday Platter1. c) Fruits and vegetables
For the most healthful holiday celebration, make fruits and vegetables the start of any buffet you set up. You can keep things simple with crudités and some yogurt-based dips, or you can get fancy and roast up your favorite vegetables and serve them on a platter, drizzled with a little bit of sauce and garnished with parsley. Add bowls of berries and sliced fruit too!

2. True
To stay healthy during the holidays, it’s wise to sneak in a little physical activity whenever you can, even though things are busy. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, “Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health.”

Check the Label3. d) All of the above
If you’re having a holiday gathering at a restaurant or coffee shop, check out any nutrition information that’s available online. Make sure that the portion size of what you want to order is reasonable. If it’s not, look for alternatives. Then, if you want to get or make something that only comes in a large portion, share it with a friend or family member. Finally, if you’re picking up a treat for a holiday gathering, check the labels! Use the Nutrition Facts to calculate serving size, nutrient content, and much more! Making a healthy plate will help you put your foods in the right proportions, too.

4. True
Starting your day off with a balanced and high-fiber breakfast is a smart way to stay healthy this holiday season. After all, breakfast is associated with a lower BMI, fewer calories consumed during the day, and a better diet. Plus, a healthful breakfast not only gives you energy, but also increases cognitive function. Some ideas include high-fiber cereal with nonfat milk, and fruit, or lowfat yogurt and fruit, or egg whites and fruit. A smoothie made with fruit and skim milk is also a great start.

How did you do? Do you know the nuts and bolts of staying healthy during the holidays?

Holiday MyPlate

As a special holiday bonus, I want to offer you the wonderful MyPlate handout that accompanies the Holiday MyPlate poster. If you like what you see, it’s not too late to pick up some last minute-holiday resources in the Nutrition Education Store — now’s the perfect time to prepare for those New Year’s resolutions…

Holiday times are here! This means a lot more activity and disruption to regular meal and exercise patterns. The good news is that you can remember MyPlate’s most important message to lower calories and eat healthier! Make half your plate fruits and veggies.

Here is how to adopt that message during the crazy holiday rush:

#1. Fill appetizer plates halfway with vegetables.

Look at the savings:

Plate 1: 546 calories

  • 4 mini quiche: 240
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese: 226
  • 5 crackers: 80 calories

Plate 2: 145 calories

  • 1 cup carrots and celery 25
  • 2 mini quiche: 120

Visualize a plate before you eat snacks (and bring your snacks!).

Are you zooming through the mall and tempted by large pretzels, cookies, and cinnamon rolls? They smell great and offer holiday spirit except they are really bad news for your waist. We have become oblivious to lare sizes because they are everywhere. Picture that item on a dinner plate. Does a cinnamon roll or pretzel likely take up a whole plate? That is too much! Bring an apple in your bag or choose a healthier item from the food court.

#2. Fill dessert plates halfway with fruit.

Instead of filling up your plate with pie, cake, brownies, and cookies, fill it up with fruit and leave room for a small slice or piece of one favorite treat.

Consider the savings:

Plate 1: 900 calories

  • Pecan pie slice: 500
  • 1 butter cookie: 200
  • Peppermint brownie: 200

Plate 2: 145 calories

  • 1 cup fresh fruit: 90
  • 1 cookie or 1/2 of a pie slice: 200 calories

Hint: bring a beautiful fresh fruit salad or bowl of fruit so you can have this option.

#3. Make a healthy plate for lunch and dinner.

No matter where you eat, using the MyPlate method of portion control can help you lower calories.

  • 1 big bowl of pasta with meatballs: 900 calories
  • MyPlate method: 1/4 pasta, 1/4 meatball, and 1/2 veggies = 400 calories

Make MyPlate at home, when you eat out, and when you are a guest somewhere else. It works in the cafeteria, the food court, the drive through and office parties!

#4. Eat a healthy snack plate with fruits and veggies before going to a party.

Okay so we realize it is not always easy to eat MyPlate at someone else’s house or the office party. So here is one more strategy. Eat your MyPlate fruits and veggies before you go out. Eat a small salad and a piece of fruit — that way when you go somewhere you can have a smaller serving of what they are offering and you won’t arrive starved only to fill up on a whole plate of fried chicken or fatty roast beef and fritters.

Will this be helpful for you or your clients? If so, don’t miss the free PDF handout available below. Normally it’s exclusive for people who buy the Holiday MyPlate poster, but I want to make an exception today…

Holiday MyPlate

Feeding People with Allergies: Avoiding Cross-Contact

Things change.

I looked around the dinner table this past holiday and realized that things were different. We had a wonderful group of people, both family members and friends… all people that we enjoyed spending time with in the past. Nothing about that has changed. However, what had changed was what we were eating. Some of the people around the table had illnesses over the past year that changed what they were “allowed” to eat. Another person had been diagnosed with a food allergy. And then there were the frequently-heard statements about certain foods that just don’t “agree” with people.

Overall we had:

  • One nut allergy (no tree nuts for sure, maybe peanuts, too!)
  • One seafood allergy
  • One person with lactose intolerance
  • Three people that didn’t eat any peppers (red, yellow, or green)
  • One person that recently had bariatric surgery and didn’t want sugar
  • One person who didn’t “do” any refined or carbohydrate-based foods.

So, how do you feed a group like this?

Here are some basics:

An allergy happens when a person’s immune system reacts to proteins in food. Major allergy foods include: eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts), soybeans, milk, fish, and crustacean shellfish. We had several of these to consider at our latest gathering. Another thing to remember about allergies is that cooking a food does not reduce or eliminate the chances of a reaction.

A food intolerance is when someone’s body can’t digest certain chemicals properly. Common intolerances involve lactose and gluten. These usually result in vomiting, nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. People with Celiac disease can have long-term problems when they consume even small amounts of  gluten.

It’s really hard to please everyone, but of more concern to me were those allergies that could really result in major reactions, including a rash, hives, breathing problems, cardiac arrest, and maybe even death. This is not something that you should brush off or ignore. Sometimes it’s even hard to trust that people with these allergies won’t eat the wrong foods.

How do you handle a situation like this? First, we asked each person or family to bring something that they knew they could eat. That way, everyone had at least something.

Then, when asked, we were able to provide the ingredient label or recipes for most of the other meal items. I was surprised that one bakery item from the grocery store didn’t have an ingredient label, but a sign by the cash register cautioned about nuts and gluten.

Another key is to watch out for cross contact. What’s cross contact?  This is when the allergy food is inadvertently put in contact with a non-allergy food.  Just a fork or spoon being transferred from one food to another may put enough of the allergy protein in the second food that could cause a problem for the person with the allergy. This could be something as simple as mixing food with fingers, on counter tops, in serving spoons, frying pans, dishes, or even “double dipping” a chip or cracker touching one food and then another. It gets even more hectic when there are larger numbers of people and several of them are trying to prepare food in a kitchen at the same time.

We were much more aware of these allergies and food intolerances this year. This is something for everyone to think about when groups get together to eat. I’ve been at buffet lines and pot-luck dinners where people have been good to share recipes and add signs if there is a known “allergy food” in the dish, but it’s also good for people to be concerned about that cross contact, too. While people with food allergies need to be “on the alert” and ever-vigilant, we can all help each other by paying closer attention to the details.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

And for a few other helpful allergy resources, don’t miss these materials…

Keep Your Family Healthy in the New Year

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Everywhere you look this time of year, someone is suggesting a resolution (or two or three) that you should keep. I’m going to chime in on this, too, with four really simple things that you can do to help keep your family healthy.

  1. Invest in a good tip-sensitive digital-read food thermometer and use it! Cooking food to the recommended minimum internal temperature is the only sure way to destroy bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli.
  2. Buy a couple of refrigerator and freezer thermometers and put them to use. Monitor these temperatures frequently. Your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F and the freezer should be close to zero degrees F. These are also great tools to have in place when determining the safety of foods after a power outage. Proper refrigerator and freezer temps can extend the time food can be kept. Recommended leftover storage is 4 days at 40 degrees or below.
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  3. Get yourself several dishwasher-safe plastic cutting boards. Designating specific colors for different foods (such as yellow for raw chicken and green for fresh veggies) can help prevent cross-contamination. Change mats frequently during food prep and wash them thoroughly in the dishwasher.
  4. Wash your hands frequently and encourage your family to do it, too! You probably don’t need to be reminded to wash after using the restroom, but also think about washing before cooking, before eating (even in a restaurant), after blowing your nose or sneezing and especially after changing diapers. Be extra diligent with handwashing when you are living with someone who is ill or in a confined area with a large group of people, such as a cruise ship or college dorm. Handwashing is the best way to prevent the transfer of norovirus.

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Best wishes for a happy and food safe new year!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a free printable handout that features these resolutions. How will you use your copy?

4resolutionsforhealth

And here are some other useful tools from the Nutrition Education Store!