Weight for the Holidays

During my nutrition counseling days I used to be busy seeing people…right after the holidays. My dietitian friends and I used to joke around that no one goes to a priest right before Vegas, they obviously wait until after. Same for us…after the “holiday binge” people want to lose weight as their top New Years resolution. Here’s the thing…if weight loss is your resolution every year then whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working. I’ll be doing a series on weight loss for the New Years so stay tuned. Right now we aren’t talking about resolutions we are talking about managing your weight during the holidays.

Do you get nervous that you’ll gain weight during the holidays? Do you know you’ll gain weight during the holidays and just go “all out”? Have you ever thought that you weren’t in control of what you eat, especially around the holidays? Do you feel guilty about what you eat during the holidays because it may affect your weight loss/management goals?

If you answered YES to any of these question, this blog post is for you!

I consider the nutrition-holiday season, the time period from right before Halloween (when all the candy comes out) until New Years Day. You buy Halloween candy starting in September but you eat a few bags before trick-or-treat night. The Halloween candy that you have leftover after trick-or-treat lasts until Thanksgiving and then right after the Thanksgiving feast we move right on in to Christmas parties, cookies, candies, cakes, pies, snacks, drinks, celebrations, etc, etc, etc. See where I’m coming from? From September to January many people eat more calories than they do the other months of the year leading to weight gain.

On the other hand, what does a little Halloween candy hurt, why can’t I enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, who doesn’t eat a lot at Christmas parties? Sure…enjoying this time of year is great but over-indulging for a few months or weeks at a time can lead to unwanted weight gain. What steps can you take in order to feel good about what you’ve been eating but also enjoy these foods that come out once a year? Read on my friends…

Halloween is long gone and Thanksgiving is behind us, let’s focus on what you can do now until Christmas to manage weight.

  1. Eat regularly. Have a balanced breakfast in the morning, eat lunch, have nutrient rich snacks throughout the day, and a dinner with grains, lean proteins, and veggies. When it’s time to celebrate, you’ve eaten well all day so enjoy the party.
  2. Limit liquid calories. Calories from alcohol add up quickly and they do not fill up your stomach and satisfy hunger. The recommendation for healthy alcohol consumption is 1 drink for women and 2 drink for men per day. Keep in mind that other beverages have calories too. Eggnog, sodas, fruit punch, flavored coffee drinks, and many others are loaded with sugar and some even have fat.
  3. Give yourself limits that are set before all hell breaks loose. I love Christmas cookies. Like I would rather eat Christmas cookies with milk all day long than eat anything else. Because  I dream about doing that (perhaps someday when I’m 80), I set a limit for how many cookies I can have in a day during the season and keep to that. It allows me to have cookies but not an entire dozen 🙂
  4. Remember your vegetables. Instead of filling your plate with tons of carbohydrates (cookies, pies, cakes, potatoes, stuffing, corn…) and proteins (ham, turkey, cheese, meats…) fill up half of your plate with veggies (salad, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower…). If you going to a potluck bring a veggie tray or a big salad. The party guests will love it!
  5. Instead of the holiday season revolving around food remember what it is really about! The birth of the Savior, showing the love of God by being kind, and gathering with friends and family. Our family LOVES games and we enjoy gathering around the tables after dinner to play, laugh, enjoy each other, and have a great time together.

Look, focus on managing not losing weight during the holidays. Keeping your weight the same is just as successful as losing weight when you are surrounded by tempting foods. You’ve got this! You can have control of what you eat. Knowing what you ultimately want and keeping your mind focused on that goal is the key. During the holiday season what is your goal?

Remember to stay tuned in January for the New Years Weight Loss Challenge! I’m so excited for it and I hope you will be too!

Diabetes and the Holidays

As a dietitian I can appreciate how difficult the holidays can be for someone with diabetes. Year round is challenging for those that struggle with blood sugar control, but when you are surrounded by pie, cookies, candy, cakes, carbs, carbs, carbs the holidays can be down right scary.

I have a few tips for those with diabetes and pre-diabetes for this time of year and I hope it helps you get through with level blood sugars and feeling empowered!

  1. Remember it’s not just sugar that increases your glucose. Carbohydrates in any shape or form raise your blood sugars. That is not necessarily a bad thing but the amount is important! Sure the sweets make your glucose go up but so do potatoes, pasta, rice, sweetened beverages, crackers, chips, pretzels and many other foods. Watch your portions.
  2. One cookie may be fine but 3 cookies could make your sugars sky rocket. Know your body and know your limits.
  3. Test, test, test, test, test. Ignorance is not bliss. Know your blood sugars!
  4. Take your medicine/insulin. Again, testing is key but so is being compliant on your medications. If your body needs help controlling blood sugars and your doctor has prescribed you a medication to lower them…take the meds your body needs!
  5. Pair with protein. A meal of cookies, cake, crackers, pie, and fruit punch may land you a trip to the hospital. Lower your portion sizes, pick and choose the carbohydrates you really want to eat, and then pair those carbohydrates with protein. Things like cheese, meats, eggs, and Greek yogurt are great sources of protein.
  6. Don’t waste carbohydrates or calories. If you pick something to eat at a holiday party and it doesn’t taste good Do. Not. Waste. Carbohydrates! Politely throw it away and get something else that you would enjoy.
  7. Alcohol is not a carbohydrate. Contrary to popular belief beer, wine, and liquor will not bring your blood sugars up. Although there are “carbohydrates” on the label alcohol technically digests like a fat so it won’t send your glucose sky high. If you pair alcohol with a sugary beverage then count on the sugary beverage to increase your blood sugars.
  8. Eat regularly. Even if you are going to a big holiday party in the evening, eat a regular breakfast, lunch, and snacks to keep your blood sugars under control.
  9. HbA1c’s don’t lie. Even if your next doctors appointment isn’t until February the HbA1c blood test will tell your doctor an average blood sugar over the last 3 months. He or she will know if the holiday season was tough on your blood sugars! It’s like Santa…it sees you when you’re eating, it knows when you don’t take your medications, so for goodness sake be careful! 🙂
  10. Why do you care what your blood sugars are during the holidays? Because every time your glucose goes too high it impacts your body in a big way. It affects your eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves, and brain especially. Keeping it under control will not only make your doctor happy but it will also make your body happy.

If you need extra help this holiday season go to see your dietitian. Make an appointment to get a game plan for Christmas parties, cookie exchanges, family gatherings, and keeping blood sugars controlled in your every day life. Having trouble finding a dietitian? Check with your local hospital or Find An Expert.

Christmas Quinoa

In the mountains of Western Pennsylvania it gets cold. I mean, really cold. This past weekend was no exception. It was cold, blustery, snowy, and icy. Did I mention that the day before was sunny and 70? At any rate, it’s good weather (the cold stuff) to have the church Thanksgiving dinner because it gets you in the mood for the warmth and comfort Thanksgiving brings. It is one of my very favorite holidays where friends and family can gather, talk, eat a meal, and enjoy one another. The time spent with loved ones is a treasure to be held and cared for. Do me a favor, don’t talk politics or other controversial topics…just be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you.

At any rate, our church’s Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time of feasting, fun, and fellowship. Many bring a covered dish and the church provides turkey, ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This year I decided to bring quinoa salad. I have a few favorite quinoa recipes in my holster and this may be one of the best! It is fresh and light while bringing in some holiday flavors.

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Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a whole grain packed with nutrients. It is best known for having tons of protein and even more than that it is a complete protein meaning it has all of the amino acids (what makes up protein) that you need! Cool huh?! Besides protein, quinoa also contains fiber, iron, omega-3’s, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s fairly flavorless unless toasted which helps it to pair well with most food. Because it is gluten free, you can substitute quinoa for pasta, barley, bulgur, or farro in other dishes.

This ancient grain is one of my favorites to make and as a bonus, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Warm or cold quinoa can be eaten warm with a meal or as a cold salad. Like this recipe, it goes well with fruit or can be part of a tangy or savory side dish.

One of the most important steps to this dish is super simple but adds so much flavor. Toasting the quinoa. I was told by a seasoned chef that you can toast any grain to bring out a nutty, more flavorful version of that grain. There are a few things you should know about toasting any grain; first you need to warm the pan over medium high heat. After the pan is warm simply add the grain, in our case quinoa. The grain will warm up and start to smell nutty. Quinoa will let you know when it’s toasting by hearing “pops”. Simply let it pop for a minute and then add broth or water (see instructions on the back), turn the heat on high, and allow the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the quinoa cook and soak in all of the liquid which takes about 15-20 minutes.

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The rest of the recipe is chopping, mixing, and pouring. Easy peasy and tastes amazing!

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Christmas Quinoa (keen-wah)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red quinoa (if you can’t find red, white is fine)
  • 5 stalks celery chopped (cut up the leaves as well)
  • 8 green onions chopped (if you can’t find them use 1/2 red onion)
  • 1 cup parsley finely chopped (flat leaf or curly)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing (use this on everything…it’s sooo good!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons

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Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until the quinoa salad is ready. This marries all of the flavors together. Yum!
  2. Toast the quinoa. Place a large pan over medium high heat until the pan is warm (not hot). Place quinoa in warmed pan and wait until the quinoa starts popping. Stir continuously until the quinoa pops for a minute or it starts to smell nutty. Do not leave the quinoa during this point or you will burn it!
  3. Once the quinoa is popping and nutty add 4 cups of water, turn the heat to high, and allow the quinoa to boil. Once it starts boiling turn down the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa soaks up the water. (follow the package directions minus the toasting and letting the water boil before putting the quinoa into it)
  4. Let the quinoa cool for a few minutes and then place in a large bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss lightly until the dressing is distributed evenly.
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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NOTES:

  • This is definitely a good make ahead dish. You can make it ahead the day before and the flavors will marry and become irresistible!
  • You can make this salad with any number of grains including (but not limited to) brown rice, wild rice, barley, bulgur, wheat berries, and farro.
  • Nut allergy? Not to worry! Try sunflower seeds or shelled pumpkin seeds instead for an added crunch.
  • Like a little more dressing? Just double the batch and save excess for salads later on!

FOOD ALERTS: Contains nuts. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free.

Try it. Let me know how you like it or if you did something to make it your own!