Zero Gain Holiday Campaign
By Sharon Palmer, RD
“It’s holiday time!” Those three simple words can rouse both a sense of joy and excitement, while also stirring up feelings of stress and anxiety that accompany the hustle and bustle of the season. Similarly, the variety of foods that fill your dinner tables and plates during the next month can bring a mix of emotions: sweet fulfillment paired with a sense of lethargy and discomfort. In fact, research suggests that the holiday time – the months associated with rich dishes, decadent desserts, and flavorful cocktails – may be partially responsible for the steady weight gain of 0.4 to 1.8 pounds Americans add on each year.
Try one of these three holiday strategies for a healthier, more energized December:
- Imbibe smartly. A number of studies links drinking moderate amounts of red wine (up to one five-ounce glass per day for women and up to two glasses per day for men) with protection against cardiovascular disease and improved cognitive health. And wine (at about 150 calories per glass) can offer a lighter drink option, compared to the holiday season’s decadent drinks, such as 500-calorie eggnogs, and sugary punches. So, skip the ultra-sweetened and creamy beverages and instead, think “red” – in moderation, of course.
- Be weary of the holiday sweets and appetizers. It may only seem like one little nibble here and one bite there, but calories can add up quickly when they’re in the form of added sugar and fat. One tiny cookie or savory pastry can easily equate to about 100 calories each. Not only that, many tiny bites in the form of rich hor d’oeuvres are not usually the best source of health-promoting vitamins and minerals found in whole plant foods.
- Be the one to bring healthy. Skip all the holiday temptation and make your own healthy game plan. Bring along your favorite healthful recipe to your workplace or neighborhood party. Load up your dish with high-fiber foods to keep your hunger and cravings in check (see below for a delicious homemade appetizer).
One of my favorite party dishes to create for a holiday gathering is a simple bruschetta bar. All you need is good whole grain French bread brushed with olive oil and garlic and a variety of dips and spreads; my personal favorite bruschetta bar is one that includes olive tapenade, roasted red bell peppers, marinated artichokes, and this tomato and white bean bruschetta. As a dietitian, I love bruschetta bars as nutrient-rich appetizer; as a foodie, I love them simply for the taste and visual appeal; and as someone who loves to entertain, this dish is a go-to choice for its simplicity to prepare. Plus, it features tomatoes – an ingredient that has been shown to preserve your heart health, protect against cancer, and even improve your mood.
1 (15-oz.) can petite cut diced tomatoes
1/2 cup small canned white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon snipped rosemary
1 teaspoon minced garlic + 1 clove garlic, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 to 16 baguette slices
Olive oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Drain tomatoes in a fine mesh strainer and place in a medium bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes then drain off any accumulated liquid. Stir in beans, olive oil, vinegar, rosemary and minced garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Rub the cut side of the garlic onto baguette slices and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Grill over medium heat for a minute or 2 on each side or until nicely grill marked and crisp. Remove and let cool. Place equal amounts of tomato mixture on each baguette slice and top with pine nuts and Parmesan. Makes 12 to 16 appetizers.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories: 110, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 410mg, Potassium: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 17g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Protein: 4g, Vitamin A: 6%, Vitamin C: 10%, Calcium: 4%, Iron: 6%
Sharon Palmer, RD