The season of tasty indulgences and holiday cheer is upon us! In honor of those of us who are interested in ways we can remain healthy and make smart choices while enjoying ourselves during the holidays, we interviewed nutritionist Anne Evans for her professional guidance. As a special bonus, she included her recipe for Holiday Kale Salad, which can be found at the bottom of this post.
First tell us a little about your background
I’m a Registered Dietitian and have a Masters in Nutritional Science from Bastry University in Washington. I love all things related to food including growing it, shopping for it, cooking it, sharing it with friends and family and helping people develop a healthy relationship with food.
With the holidays fast approaching, we have a number of brides and grooms who have voiced concerns over maintaining a well-balanced diet in a season of rich food and drink. What are the top 5 foods we should avoid?
Rather than avoiding foods you should enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. When individuals deprive themselves of their favorite foods they often compensate by eating too much of something else.
What are the top 5 foods toward which we should navigate?
1) Whole grains. The extra fiber will keep you satiated longer. So many interesting whole grains are now readily available in the market, so don’t be afraid to experiment with grains such as quinoa, farro and teff.
2) Snack healthy. Nuts in small amounts can make a great snack. They are high in healthy fats and filling so you don’t find yourself hungry twenty minutes later. Popcorn makes a great snack. Try cooking your popcorn in coconut oil and topping it with sea salt for delicious flavor with no butter needed!
3) Enjoy fish such as wild salmon or sardines, which offer you healthy fats and protein but are low in mercury.
4) When serving your food, make sure half of your plate is fruit and vegetables. This way you know you are getting plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body craves.
5) Dark leafy greens. Winter is a great time to enjoy dark leafy greens, which are high in fiber, calcium and vitamin K. Try using kale in a salad in place of lettuce.
Which beverage choices are the smartest ones to look for at a party and which are the worst?
Stay away from drinks made with mixers or soda. If you are going to have more than one drink, alternate with a glass of water or sparkling water to stay hydrated and cut your calories in half. Try sparkling water with a wedge of lime to keep it festive.
During the holiday season many people enjoy drinking egg nog. Egg nog is celebratory but you will pay the price in calories. One serving of egg nog has over 400 calories! When we drink our calories rather than eat them, our bodies do not recognize the calories consumed and you will remain hungry.
Be wary of Holiday speciality drinks which are often loaded with extra sugar. A 16oz Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha has 520 calories and 18 grams of fat – that’s more calories than a double cheeseburger!
What are some easy tips and tricks we should keep in mind while trying to make smart decisions at a party?
~ Eat a light snack before going to a party. Showing up hungry to a party hungry will make you much less likely to maintain self control. I’d suggest a high protein low carb snack under 400 calories.
~ Many holiday parties include buffets, which can be overwhelming to say the least. Remember you don’t have to try everything on the buffet, start with only your favorites and if you are still hungry you can go back for more – chances are you won’t still be hungry.
~ Over the holidays, food seems to be everywhere – parties, the workplace, friends bring over goodies, it can seem endless. Be sure to check in with yourself and ask how hungry you are or are you just eating that frosted cookie just because it’s there.
~ Holiday parties often include alcoholic drinks. Alcohol lowers your inhibition and can increase your appetite, making those trays of fried finger foods more difficult to resist
~ Bring something healthy with you that you like to share, that way you know there will be at least one healthy alternative. The recipe I share below is a perfect example.
If we don’t find the time to exercise as much during the holidays, what are some simple ways we can stay on track?
Small things can really make a difference if you make them a habit. Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator while doing your holiday shopping, park you car at the far end of the lot, make time to take a walk at lunch, if you have a dog make a commitment to take them out for a walk – that smiling face will make getting out of bed a little early all worth it.
Remember that each day is a new beginning. If you had too much to eat the night before or missed the gym don’t let that discourage you or ruin the momentum you have built. Just get back on track and keep moving!
Can you share your favorite holiday recipe with us?
Sure! Here’s the recipe for my Holiday Kale Salad, which is a beautiful, healthy dish that will make a great addition to any holiday buffet.
Thanks so much for your helpful advice, Anne!