10 Don’ts a Nutritionist Sticks to at a Holiday Party



Holiday party time is in full swing.  Celebrating this special time of the year with your colleagues, friends and family typically comes with more eating, more drinking and more indulging in our favorite comforts.

I love to enjoy holiday parties just like everyone else, but I do my best to not let the season drag my health and wellness goals down. So if you’re wondering how a nutritionists navigates a holiday party while still having fun, here are the 10 Don’ts that I follow when going out. Hey, even if you stick to just 7 of these you are doing yourself a favor! 

1. Don’t Go Hungry. 
This is definitely rule #1.  Think of the party as more of a marathon not a sprint.  If you go in hungry you’ll quickly make a break for the buffet and fill your belly with food and drinks before you realize you’re overstuffed.  Taking the edge off with a fiber and phytonutrient rich snack beforehand, can allow you to have the mental energy to take the time needed to peruse the scene and choose your food and beverage wisely.

Try these energizing, light recipes:

 
2. Don’t Go Thirsty.
Being underhydrated can zap energy levels and ramp up sugar or salt cravings or simply the desire to eat just about anything!  Don’t just sip water at the party as an anti-overeating strategy.  Plan ahead and start the day before.  Try to fit in an extra cup or two of water with a goal of at least 8, 8 oz. cups (64 oz totally) per day.

3. Don’t Arrive Empty Handed.
Not only are you being a good guest by bringing a snack or fun {healthy} cocktail to the party, but you’re also bringing something that you know is good for you and that you can enjoy! Many times party foods are set to please the masses and that includes fried foods, cheese-heavy snacks, fatty dips, and so on. Bring an exciting flare to the party with one of these options:

 
4. Don’t Pass on the Veggies Just Because it’s the Holidays.
Red and green is festive, so eat more of the red and green veggies. I like to go for a heaping pile of about 75% of my plate.  It’s good to be an overachiever sometimes!  This can help keep the heavier foods that leave me feeling lethargic the next day at bay and also leave room for indulgences I may want to prioritize like chocolate or alcohol. 

5. Don’t Sit in the Corner All Night. 
Catch up with friends, be social, and be the life of the party! More time talking is less time eating and the social connection is truly what the holidays are all about. 

6. Don’t Park Too Close (or stay until midnight).
The later you stay, the more alcohol is likely to be drank and the more food to be consumed. I like to have an exit strategy in place –the reassurance of being able to scoot out of a party when we’re ready to roll (or the babysitter calls) is key so parking a bit further out means no need to ask others to move their cars.  Plus, knowing we can walk off a bit of our food and drink in the brisk, cool air feels really good at the end of a fun night.  See if you can skip driving altogether and take public transportation or just skip the drinking and at the next party your husband can be the DD. 

7. Don’t Consume the Triglyceride-Raising Trifecta.
Bread, dessert and wine (or any alcohol) are all metabolized to sugars and can contribute to raising triglyceride levels in the blood, which is bad for your heart.  Be picky!  Decide to enjoy just one of these three amigos per party or if you can pull it off, a super tiny amount of each. 

8. Don’t Commit to “Just One”.
Watch out for those “Oh I’ll just have one” moments (which can quickly turn into two, three, many more).   Sometimes it’s easier and less stressful to simply abstain.  Although it’s actually not simple at all!   Walking by certain foods and identifying them as “off limits” can help – especially when it comes to being mindful of food sensitivities.  I find an all or nothing approach works best for me; otherwise that just one bite of calamari turns into about 20 more and boy, will my belly ache! 

9. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Sleep.
Get a good night’s sleep before the party to help curb cravings. Low energy can spike those cravings and leave you reaching for not one, not two, but 10 bites of the spinach artichoke dip.  Here are more tips for getting a good night’s sleep. 

10. Don’t Skip Exercise.
Go on a walk or exercise that day and plan for the next day’s physical activity.  Nothing too strenuous if you are exhausted, but a nice brisk walk, jog, yoga or workout class with a friend can boost body and mind to gear up or decompress from the festivities.

What’s your favorite tip for staying {somewhat} healthy at a holiday party?

Baked Truffle Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes

Just because Thanksgiving is over doesn’t mean you can’t serve mashed potatoes at your next meal. And you should think about serving this healthy spin on a turkey day classic by combining potatoes with pumpkin and truffle oil! Whether you’re starting from scratch on a cold winter day, or looking for ideas to boost the nutrition in your leftovers it can be easy to elevate the nutrition of your favorite comfort foods.

By adding pumpkin you’re getting a high dose of beta-carotene, which is an important antioxidant linked to lower rates of certain cancers including breast cancer and lung cancer.  Carotene-rich foods are also good for your heart; helping protect against heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Pumpkin is also high in fiber, which is important for healthy digestion, hunger and weight control.

Don’t throw out the pumpkin seeds! Roast them for a family favorite healthy snack.  I like to sprinkle them on salads or even oatmeal.  Pumpkin seeds are rich in the potent anti-inflammatory fat, omega-3s.

I start my mashed potatoes by baking them rather than boiling to help reduce nutrient loss like potassium. Potatoes, even white ones, do contain additional nutrients like fiber and magnesium (in the skin).  It’s easy to roast a pumpkin at the same time you’re baking your potatoes.

Baking the potatoes at the end with bread crumbs and any toppings you desire really makes this dish unique!

Sugar, Ah, Honey, Honey



In honor of National Diabetes Day, here’s a deeper dive at how our world sees, eats, and lives with sugar!

We Love Sugar!
It’s not news that excess sugar intake can lead to obesity and development of serious health conditions like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  But a
s humans, connecting to a sweet taste is one of our most primal senses and is necessary for sustaining life.  Carbohydrates, which are broken down into various types of “sugars,” are our primary fuel source for quick energy and to feed our brains.  But early man’s sugar sure doesn’t look like the sweet treats you’d find in a bakery case or packaged up in the cookie aisle at the grocery store.  

In fact, back in 2008 the average American consumed about 77 grams or 19 teaspoons of sugar per day although this was down by 23% between 2000 & 2008.  However the American Heart Association suggests maximum sugar consumption of 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men and 25 grams or 6 teaspoons for women.  This means that we were consuming about 3 times the amount suggested for our health! 

Sugar in Different Shapes & Sizes
We often lump sugar into one large, white granular category.  But sugar technically in a scientific sense refers to about 14 common types of sugars that are different types of structures and molecules.  The major categories include: 

  • Monosaccharides or simple sugars, like fructose or glucose
  • Disaccharides which are 2 monosaccharides joined together like sucrose (table sugar made from glucose + fructose) or lactose (glucose + galactose).
  • Oligosaccharides or small numbers of monosaccharides joined together like FOS or fructo-oligosaccharides found in plants like chicory and onions.
  • Polysaccharides which are longer chains or mono or disaccharides formed together like starch, dextrin, glycogen our stored form of glucose in our muscles liver and brain. 

Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars is a big debate.  In fact, lobbying is going on in Washington to have ‘Added Sugars’ added to the food label to help consumers identify sugars that have been added into products versus those which occur naturally in the food.  For example, tomato sauce and salad dressings often have sugars added to them for taste.  

Some sugars may be healthier than others but all and especially added sugars should be consumed in moderation.  Let’s look at where much of our modern day sugar intake comes from: beverages.  Beverages like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit “juice” account for about 33% of all added sugars according to experts 

Alcohol also can count as sugar in a sense and can contribute to high triglyceride levels in the blood; a risk for heart disease.  Alcohol also has more calories per gram than carbohydrates like rice and bread.  

The Fault in Our Fruit
So where does fruit and fresh juice made in your juicer fall on the spectrum of healthy vs. unhealthy sugars?  Many say that fruits should be limited and lumped into the same category as candy.  As a nutritionist I find this assertion lacks credibility although certainly vegetables should be consumed in a larger amount compared to fruits; like say 5 servings of veggies and 2 of fruits a day – this is what the Australian health authorities suggest and Harvard School of Public Health’s recommendations are in line as well.

But let’s look at the orange for example.  A medium sized orange has about 15.4 grams of carbohydrate. However it also contains fiber – 3.1 grams and over 170 phytonutrients, like vitamin C.  Some estimates show that eating 3 whole oranges would raise your blood sugar as much as drinking just a mere 6 oz. of commercial orange juice.  Three oranges would sure fill you up more and nourish your body better than 6 oz. of liquid!  The fiber and nutrients can influence absorption rate of carbohydrate and sugar in a positive way helping to slow this down. Slower absorptive rate means less spike and crash in sugar and energy and a less dramatic insulin response – chronic elevated insulin may be associated with risk of diseases including some types of cancer not just diabetes.    

Tips to Combat Sugar Cravings

  • Stay Hydrated.  Being under-hydrated can often heighten sugar cravings when what we really need is water.  Our bodies may think that we are hungry when in fact we are thirsty.
  • Include protein and healthy-fat rich foods like nuts with carbs like fruits or toast.
  • Cinnamon may help keep blood sugar levels in check.
  • Fiber is your friend.  Fiber, like protein, will slow down our absorption of carbohydrates helping to reduce an insulin spike.  Plus fiber helps keep us full which can assist in reducing sugar cravings and overeating not to mention a fiber rich diet is connected to lower risk of certain cancers and regulating digestion.
  • Be picky when eating out – bread, alcohol, dessert are all essentially “sugars” so choose one at most per meal.  

Want to see a comical spin on this not so funny issue?  Check out John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight segment; informative and frighteningly entertaining.

Pumpkin Everything: How to Cook, Eat & Enjoy



Fall is my favorite season, especially living in New England with sunny days, cool, brisk autumn nights, vibrant foliage, apple and pumpkin picking, warm cider, hayrides and cozying up around the fireplace and of course delicious, versatile comforting produce.  Butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, roasted herbed potatoes,  Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, onions, garlic, and countless varieties of apples just to name a few!

Here are my boys picking fresh pumpkins!



Since pumpkin-flavored everything is all the rage this time of year, let’s look at the beautiful vegetable and why it got its fame.

Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant linked to lower rates of certain cancers including breast cancer and lung cancer.  Studies suggest a reduced risk of developing estrogen receptor negative breast cancer in women who consumed more carotene rich foods and a carotenoid-rich diet may reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer.  Other studies suggest carotene-rich foods may protect against many other types of cancer (prostate, esophagus, head and neck, stomach, colon, ovary, kidney, bladder, pancreas, cervix, and skin), as well as heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.

Pumpkin is also high in fiber which is important for healthy digestion, hunger and weight control, healthy heart and cancer prevention.

Since sugar pumpkins are the best for cooking, I’m sharing a step-by-step guide on how to cook and use pumpkin in recipes. Check it out here and start cooking your pumpkin!

Cooked pumpkin is delicious…


Once your pumpkin is cooked, here are the many ways I love to enjoy it.

My Top 9 Favorite Ways to Enjoy October Pumpkins.

1. Roast Seeds.  Scoop from pumpkin and rinse, removing stringy flesh.  Lay flat to dry.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet covered in parchment paper with dry pumpkin seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and add spices or simply sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Try cumin for a kick.  Serve plain or on top of oatmeal, salads, chili, etc.

2. Make Pumpkin Apple Muffins
Add roasted pumpkin to your favorite muffin recipe.  Mix with or use to replace banana or zucchini. For a gluten free, vegan version, combine GF flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, flax seed, water, oil, baked apples with cinnamon & honey (or applesauce), roasted pumpkin, almond or coconut milk then bake on 350 for about 18 minutes.

3. Make Pumpkin Waffles
Add roasted pumpkin to your favorite waffle recipe.

4. Impress Your Guests with Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes
Mix half baked potato with half roasted pumpkin when making mashed potatoes.

5. Blend Your Roasted Pumpkin
The Pumpkin Apple Smoothie is a favorite! Blend roasted pumpkin with apples, spices, pears, and more for a delicious fall smoothie.

6. Add Raw Pumpkin to Your Juice
In the Fall Harvest Cinnamon Juice you use raw pumpkin for a naturally sweet juice and a high yield. Wash well and leave rind on when juicing. Cut carefully to fit into juicer chute.

7. Warm Up to Pumpkin Soup
Combine roasted pumpkin with onions, garlic, apple, a touch of curry for a warm, filling yet light meal on a cool autumn evening or Sunday afternoon.  

8. Full Up on Pumpkin Chili
Add roasted pumpkin and cinnamon to your favorite spicy chili.  Hot, sweet and unexpectedly delicious!

9. Sweeten Your Season with Pumpkin Date Bars
Try using pumpkin, instead of the date filling to this Raw Date Square Crumble.

How do you use your pumpkin?!

Cranberry Apple Ginger Juice

Cranberries are one of my favorite fall foods.  Tart and naturally low in sugars they are a good source of vitamin C and dietary fiber.   Fresh, raw cranberries are a far cry from their dried counterparts with only 4 grams of natural sugar and 46 calories per one cup compared with 124 grams of sugar and 520 calories in 1 cup of dried cranberries!  Dried varieties may also have added sulfites or other ingredients.

Cranberries are rich in phytonutrients like antioxidants beyond just vitamin C, including anthocyanin.  We’ve all heard about the benefits of cranberry juice in helping to ease urinary tract issues, but they also have potent cancer fighting properties.  According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, including cranberries in your diet may help lower your risk of certain types of cancers including; mouth, esophagus, lung, and stomach cancers.

Cashew Cream Stuffed Mushrooms

It’s National Mushroom Month this September so this is a perfect excuse to get in the kitchen and make a favorite mushroom recipe using our tried and true cashew cream recipe. Mushrooms have been touted as miraculous and magical and while those words tend to be used as exaggerated health claims there are loads of nutritional benefits backed up by scientific evidence that mushrooms can proudly proclaim.

Mushrooms have wellness promoting nutrients like Vitamin D, immune supportive properties which may help white blood cells,  reduce risk of certain cancers – check out this free webinar for more info on mushrooms from the National Cancer Institute (USA).  Mushrooms go far beyond the white buttons. Get creative with shiitake, maiitake, reishi types at the grocery store which have long been used in traditional medicine across the globe for a long list of ailments.

These stuffed mushrooms are easy to make and a favorite I like to bring to fall parties and school functions.  Vegan, gluten and dairy free they make a healthy side dish or snack.

A Healthy Dinner for Under $1

Looking for an easy and inexpensive meal the family will love?  This recipe is your answer!  It includes pulp from your favorite veggie juices, quinoa and beans that add a ton of protein and fiber, and it makes a large dish so you’ll have leftovers all week long.
I like to soak my dry beans overnight in the slow cooker then drain, rinse and return to the slow cooker along with the other amazing plant ingredients below.  I cook the quinoa separately in a rice cooker, but you can also use a pot, then add to the slow cooker as the chili is cooking.

This dinner meal makes for a great lunch the next day and my kids love when I send some warmed up in their thermos.  Naturally gluten and dairy free too!  A 16 oz. serving costs on about $.80-$1!  That’s a lot of nutrition for just a little money!

A Juice for Your Evening Stroll

Evening Stroll

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1

Serving Size: 16 - 18 oz. (500 mls)

Ingredients



I love going for walks with my family after dinner especially in the crisp, cool fall evenings. Filled with some of the best fall produce, this juice is great for an easy stroll if you’re needing something sweet after dinner. On the flip side, it’s also excellent to drink this juice before exercising, thanks to the natural nitric oxide in beets that has been shown to help boost exercise performance and antioxidants. You can enjoy this juice at anytime though since it’s packed with vitamin C and beta-carotene in the orange, lemon and carrot.

Ingredients:
1 medium beet (beetroot)
2-3 carrots
1 orange
½ lemon

Directions:

1. Wash all produce well.

2. Peel beet, orange and lemon.

3. Add all ingredients through the juicer and enjoy!

Substitutions:
Beet – red apple, red cabbage
Carrot – sweet potato, butternut squash
Orange –  grapefruit
Lemon – lime, ginger