Mirth without Girth - 5 Healthy Diet Tips for the Holiday Chef


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Holiday feasts can be fabulously festive without being fattening. With a little creativity and positive intention you can enhance your holiday meal traditions by serving sumptuous and healthful meals. As a holiday chef you have the power to be selective, and create a menu to delight as well as relieve traditional holiday table guilt. Simple shifts in cooking techniques lighten your favorite fare with professional ease. This year, create your own holiday traditions by changing habits and helping recipes evolve, adding your own health-affirming legacy to the family.

These 5 tips will help you begin… cheers!

  • 1. Pick your “must-haves” and make a plan; choose the dishes and foods that are most loved, important, and symbolic to you and your family. These are the things that are most worth spending calories on. Edit out what you can without feeling deprived. Consider if another (healthier) option might possibly fit the bill. For example, would baked sweet potatoes work in place of candied yams? If the answer is no, set your original recipe aside for possible modification (see tip # 3).

  • 2. Choose your menus differently and wisely. After your “must-haves”, balance and fill out your menu with healthy, whole food choices. Avoid more dishes with sauces and gravies. Seek out vegetable and whole grain based dishes, lean meats, beans and green salads. Consider more fresh fruits, low-fat yogurt and ice cream for dessert. Pumpkin or fruit pies have half the calories of pecan pie. Overall, think high fiber and low fat.
  • 3. Select your ingredients differently. Low-fat (and some non-fat) dairy items can be substituted for whole milk products without any perceivable change. Evaporated skim milk is the classic dieters substitution for cream. Low-sodium salt is a great way to cut down on a common holiday culprit. Choose whole grain breads and rolls, brown rice and multi-grain pasta (tastes better than whole wheat). Chicken, ground turkey (skinless), lean beef and pork are better choices than fattier meats like rib roast, T-bone steak, sausage, bacon and ham. Low- fat and fat-free mayonnaise works wonders in recipes. Don’t forget the nonstick vegetable oil spray for cooking and cutting excess calories and fat. To be sure your feast is the most flavorful, nutritious and visually enticing that it can be (without caloric excess), use as many fresh, whole foods and herbs as possible.
  • 4. Simple cooking techniques lighten your menu the same way the spa chefs have become famous for. In addition to making choices like those described above, spa chefs use techniques like braising, roasting and steaming to prepare tender, flavor-rich meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables, without added oil and fat. Baking and broiling are also considered key low-fat cooking techniques. Always trim visible fat and remove poultry skin before cooking. Basting with fat-free broth or fruit juice is essential to moist yet low-fat roasting. Steaming is an amazing and under-rated technique that can produce quite delicate results. Substitute two egg whites or an egg substitute for each egg in recipes and applesauce can take the place of up to 1/3 of the oil in baking.
  • 5. Consider some positive manipulation. Plan gatherings where food is not the sole and central focus. Have a soup or salad buffet lunch instead of the normal afternoon or evening feasts. Arrange foods on tables in decreasing order of importance. Place the high-fiber, low- fat, healthy choices at the front of the buffet table and the richer, calorie dense items toward the end of the table. Serve dessert only after the meal.

Don’t wait… create your own healthy holiday traditions this year. Lighten up your holiday feast without compromising an iota of enjoyment. Savor your meal and appreciate your intelligence in celebrating with mirth without adding extra girth. Have a toast for the holiday chef!

© 2005 Karen B. Cohen. All Rights Reserved.

Karen B. Cohen C. L. C. RYT500 is a wellness coach and master yoga instructor, writer and speaker residing in a college town in rural Virginia. Karen leads people to their own limitless supply of creativity and vitality so that they can express their talent and abilities fully in the world. A former chef and caterer she believes that delicious, healthy food is essential to our happiness and wellbeing. Karen provides seminars, workshops, individual coaching and training nationally and internationally. For more information go to KarenCohenYoga.blogspot.com and RockbridgeCoaching.blogspot.com


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