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!

Keep Your Holidays Food Safe

Sometimes I wonder what happens to common sense during the holidays.

I know things get hectic, but many people seem to “throw caution to the wind” when it comes to food safety.  Over the next few weeks, you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy food, so please keep food safety in mind.

This should be especially true when entertaining. Some of your guests may have special needs. Remember that the young, the elderly, pregnant, and immune-suppressed may be more susceptible to getting foodborne illness. Don’t take risks with their health by serving potentially dangerous foods such as raw eggs, raw fish, undercooked poultry, or rare ground beef. Think about alternative foods or recipes that may be safer.

Just because it’s a holiday and your refrigerator is full does not mean that the “two-hour rule” isn’t in effect. Food should not be allowed to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Two hours is enough time for bacteria to multiply to the quantity that could cause foodborne illnesses. This is cumulative too. If you leave the leftovers on the dining room table for one hour, then later leave them out on the counter for 30 minutes to make sandwiches, you will only have a half-hour window left.

On New Year’s Eve, many parties start in the early evening and don’t end until well after the New Year. That could be four or five hours and way past the safe time for leaving that food set out at room temperature.  If you can’t keep cold foods below 41 degree F or hot foods above 135 degrees F, plan to replace them with fresh at least every two hours.

Here are a few other basic things to keep in mind:

  • Wash your hands frequently when preparing and serving food.
  • Get food into the refrigerator as soon as possible after a meal. Don’t leave it out for guests coming later or to make sandwiches.
  • Don’t put potentially-hazardous food in the garage, porch or sunroom.  While these areas may feel cool, they may not keep food below 41 degrees F. Some cut fruits and vegetables (including sliced tomatoes, leafy greens and melons) fall into this category, too.
  • Use small serving dishes on buffet lines. When that dish is empty, then replace it with another small dish of the same food instead of setting out the entire bowl or mixing “fresh” food in with the “old.”
  • Take care with desserts that contain potentially hazardous foods such as whipped cream, custards, creamy cheeses, and eggs. Keep these foods in the refrigerator below 41 degrees.

A little care and planning ahead can make this a food-safe holiday season.  You want the memories to be of happy times and not of a foodborne illness or trip to the emergency room.

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

Sneak Peek from the Member Library

Have you heard about the Food and Health Membership program? It’s chock-full of fantastic resources for educators, including…

  • Access to all materials with a comprehensive, searchable database that is loaded with nutrition articles, chef-tested recipes, and engaging handouts.
  • White-label newsletters that you can use to create your own content.
  • Memorable handouts. Access all of these handouts in a library that is categorized for easy use.
  • Presentation and interactive project ideas for wellness fairs, classes, lunch-and-learn sessions, cooking demonstrations, and health fairs.
  • Chef-developed and exhaustively-tested recipes for meals that are both delicious and healthful.
  • The latest food news and scientific research. (Since we don’t accept outside funding or sponsorship of any kind, we can bring you the latest news, free of bias).
  • A translation tool that helps you translate all your articles for non-English-speaking clients. You can copy and paste to create handouts in all languages!
  • A food and health celebrations calendar that features monthly themes, food- and health-related holidays, seasonal produce, relevant clip art, handouts, and more.
  • Satisfaction, guaranteed!

holiday

Today I want to share one of those popular articles with you. Lisa C. Andrews, MEd, RD, LD has put together a great guide for throwing and attending healthful holiday parties this year. Here’s what she has to say…

The holidays come upon us fast, and so can holiday weight gain… if you’re not careful. Below are some simple swaps to prevent “a little round belly that shakes when you laugh like a bowl full of jelly.”

1. Serve veggies and dip for appetizers. Pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers look beautiful when arranged around a bowl of hummus or dip.

2. Swap plain Greek yogurt for sour cream in your favorite dips. Your guests likely won’t notice the change and they’ll get a nice dose of protein and calcium.

3. Sauté onions and garlic for stuffing in non-stick spray or low sodium broth in place of oil, butter, or margarine.

4. Try mashed sweet potatoes with orange juice, ginger, and cinnamon in place of marshmallows, brown sugar, and butter.

5. Use 1% or 2% milk in mashed potatoes in place of whole milk or heavy cream. This cuts calories and fat from the dish.

6. Keep selzter water on hand for “mocktails”. Pour over ice and add a twist of lime. Voila! No hangover.

7. Use whipped butter or light margarine in place of stick butter. This reduces fat and calories.

8. Use reduced-fat mayonnaise in place of full-fat mayonnaise in dips and dressings. Olive oil varieties provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
9. Try a salad dressing spritzer in place of bottled dressings. Blend olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard together for your own dressing.

10. Substitute jarred baby prunes, mashed bananas, applesauce, or plain yogurt for the fat in baked goods (such as quick breads).

11. Split desserts with your spouse, a friend, or other party guests. You may not be hungry for a full piece of pie, anyway.

12. Chop vegetables and add them to soups, stews, salads, and casseroles. This boosts the fiber and nutrient content, and also adds color to your dish.

13. Add seasonal fruit such as apples, pears, or pomegranates to salads in place of dried fruit. This adds texture and taste to your salad while reducing added sugar.

By Lisa C. Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Remember, this article (and thousands of others) was only available to members until I decided to preview it today. If you liked what you saw, check out what a membership entails or just sign up today!

Oh, and here’s a printable version of the handout Lisa wrote…

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And here are some other holiday resources…

 

Three Turkey Tips

turkey

DON’T WASH IT!  If you’re thinking that rinsing or washing the turkey will remove any potential bacteria —don’t bother — it won’t work. According to the folks at the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, the process of washing or rinsing a turkey will not remove any bacteria that may be on it and it won’t make it safer. It’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird.

The concern with washing poultry (not just a big turkey, but all poultry) is splashing bacteria and cross contamination.

The water used to rinse the turkey adds to the amount of liquid that could be contaminated with bacteria. It can splash around the sink, countertop, onto other dishes, faucets or you, the cook. The chances are high that some of the foods in the “splash zone” won’t be cooked. This could make you or your holiday guests very sick and all of this arises from doing something that you thought was a good thing.

What you really need to do is wash your hands before and after handling your turkey and its packaging. This can go a long way towards avoiding spreading harmful bacteria. If your raw turkey or its juices come in contact with kitchen surfaces, wash the countertops and sinks with hot, soapy water. If you want to make sure everything is bacteria free, you can sanitize the area by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Be sure to let those areas dry thoroughly.

WHAT ABOUT PINK TURKEY MEAT?  You can’t use color as a guide to determine whether your turkey is cooked or not.

Turkey meat can remain pink even when it is at the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Note that smoked turkey meat is always pink. The difference in colors between the “white meat,” “dark meat,” and even “pink meat” is due to the amount of oxygen-storing myoglobin in the meat muscle. Muscles that are used more — like the leg muscles — need more oxygen and can store more, so they have more myoglobin and thus darker meat.

DON’T GUESS. CHECK THE TEMP! The only way that you can be absolutely sure the turkey is completely cooked is to use a thermometer. The minimum temperature a turkey should be cooked is 165 degrees F. Check the internal temperature at several locations, including the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.

Pop-up timers may pop too early because of fat pooling at the tip; always use another thermometer to double check.

While 165 degrees F is the minimum safe temperature for destroying bacteria, the National Turkey Federation recommends cooking turkey to a higher temperature. They say that people will like the quality more and the turkey itself will be easier to carve and slice if it’s cooked to a higher temperature. They frequently suggest 180 degrees.

Anyway, I hope these tips help make your Thanksgiving celebration even greater!

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

Here’s a handout with these tips! It’s perfect for a display, presentation, or email blast!

3turkeytips

And here are some other great holiday resources…