Monday, November 25, 2013

Meatless Monday: Healthy Holiday Eating Tips & A Vegan Eggnog Recipe

Last week, I attended Shira Hirshberg's Surviving the Holidays workshop at Momentum Fitness in Providence, RI. Shira is a registered dietitian with lots of practical tips for mostly healthy holiday eating. Here's what I learned:

Don't let the liquids fool you.
Drinks contain calories but not many nutrients. When you arrive at a party, drink plenty of water to first satisfy your thirst. Later move on to non-alcoholic beverages (sparkling grape juice contains 160 calories for 8 oz) and booze (vodka cranberry is 183 calories per serving) more selectively.

Work the room.
This is a two part strategy. First, survey everything in the buffet. This will help you make an informed decision about which things you'd like to eat and in what amounts before you start loading it up. The second part of the strategy is to stand at least an arm's distance from the snack table to prevent mindless snacking.

Get your plate right.
At least half of your plate should be high-nutrient, low-calorie veggies like leafy greens (kale, collards, salad greens) and green beans. The veggies part of the plate is unlimited refills section so go wild. The other two quarters are protein (beans or tofu) and starch (winter squash, sweet potatoes, peas, rice, millet, bread, pasta).

A healthy holiday plate

Be slow.
Did you know it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your tummy is full? Take your time eating. Put your fork, spoon, or sandwich down between bites. Take a breather before going back for seconds.

Enjoy yourself.
It's the holidays so focus on taking time to enjoy the present, including your company your food. Don't worry about gaining weight from a single holiday meal. Shira pointed out that it is actually quite hard to gain one pound in one day. You'd have to eat pounds upon pounds of food. Most "weight" gained from the Thanksgiving meal is due to water retention cause by eating foods high in salt.

Stay Active.
Traveling for the holidays or preparing for guests may break up your gym routine but there are still opportunities for physical activity. Take a walk with your guests. Exercise helps manage stress and anxiety. This will certainly make the holidays more pleasant!

Healthy Holiday Nog!
Shira shared this vegan eggnog recipe: Four bananas, 1 1/2 c your choice milk, 1.5 c your choice plain yogurt, 1/4 tsp rum extract. Blend everything until smooth. Top with ground nutmeg.

My action plan.
"Get Your Plate Right" is the most challenging tip for me especially because often good, clean veggies (those not covered in cheez, vegenaise, or Earth Balance) aren't available. Veggies just generally aren't exciting on a day dedicated to gorging, even for me. This year, I'm determined to bring a huge, decadent marinated kale salad to Thanksgivukkah that everyone will love and remember. I plan to make something similar to this one.

How do you eat healthy and stay active over the holidays? Which of Shira's tips would you like to try? Be sure to check out my Gluten-Free, Kosher, and Vegan Thanksgivukkah Recipe Guide for inspiration.

Learn more about Shira Hirshberg and her nutrition counseling at

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