Thanks For Giving Me These Holiday Tips!

Thankful for Health

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – being surrounded by family, friends and food and acknowledging the many things for which we are thankful. While it’s okay to indulge (it is a holiday, after all), it’s important to be thankful for our health, our ability to reach this season, and treat our bodies well so that they can continue to care for us. This year, I have a lot to be thankful for! I’m thankful for my fiancé, who keeps me strong, challenges me and loves me unconditionally. I’m also thankful for the fact that I’ll be gaining an additional family in a few short months, and thankful for my own family who has always supported me, through college and grad school, my initial endeavors as a dietitian, and always playing the role of guinea pig when I want to try out a new recipe! I’m thankful for my new home in Florida, all of my new friends, my old friends who continue to stay close regardless of being miles apart, and the ability to do what I love everyday.

I’m also thankful for my attitude toward food, as I’m aware that it does not come easy to many people, and it didn’t always come easy to me, either. Food should be enjoyed, not villainized, and celebrated for all that it can do for us, and we should aim to choose foods that will provide nutrition, as well as joy. In the midst of casseroles, cookies and pies, it can be difficult to navigate the Thanksgiving table with health in mind. Below are some tips so that you can eat your turkey (and pie), and enjoy it too!

  • Start your day with some physical activity. Most of us consume more calories on Thanksgiving than on an average day, so burning some extra calories will help to offset the caloric intake to come. Also, exercise can allow you to burn some additional calories following your workout, although this amount is often small.
  • Focus on veggies. That may seem difficult on Turkey Day, but there are so many seasonal veggies to choose from right now and they’ll help you to fill up with fiber, water and give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals! Some in-season veggies to consider making the star of the show include Brussels sprouts, kale, winter squash, cauliflower and cabbage. My favorite Brussels sprouts recipe is just as tasty as it is pretty!
  • Turkey is a relatively lean protein, especially if you choose the breast meat (white meat). If you’re a turkey lover, feel free to enjoy the festive protein, keeping in mind that one 3 oz serving of poultry is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking a glass of water and choosing foods that contain large amounts of water (like fruits and vegetables) can help you to feel more full, which means you may indulge less and keep portions reasonable. Also, if you’re drinking alcohol, make sure to alternate each drink with water and skip any high-sugar mixers.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains for side dishes. Try a recipe that features farro or quinoa (okay, so quinoa is technically a seed, but it’s consistency and properties are similar to a whole grain) for increased protein and fiber! Farro is my favorite, with a hearty, chewy texture that stands up to sauces and is also great on it’s own with some oil and veggies.
  • Consider serving a veggie-based soup before the meal, such as my pureed roasted cauliflower soup. This seasonal soup tastes creamy and hearty, but it’s relatively low in calories and will fill you up so you don’t overdo it during the main event.
  • Go for an evening stroll with some guests after dinner, which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and add to your overall step count that day.
  • Don’t be fooled by desserts with a health halo – an avocado brownie is still a brownie, although it is likely to be a better alternative since it will have increased monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Even if you offer some “healthified” dessert options, keep portions in check. Interested in sampling a few desserts because there are so many great options? Take small portions of a few and choose your favorite to possibly indulge in a larger piece. My favorite fall dessert? Pumpkin pie! Enjoy my favorite recipe here. More into chocolate? My chocolate goji bark is always a crowd pleaser!

thanksgiving

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Baked Spinach Artichoke Protein Pasta

Baked Spinach Artichoke Protein Pasta

Meal Prep is easiest when you can make a large batch of one thing that can last through the beginning of a crazy week. One of my favorite foods to prep in advance is pasta – it’s always great warmed up and holds up well in the fridge or the freezer. This recipe was originally presented at a Culinary Workshop class I recently helped to lead, and I adapted it, pumped up the protein with legume-based pasta and Greek yogurt and used my Skinny Spinach Artichoke Dip as a base to make it my own. The result was creamy, spinach artichoke deliciousness – and a ton of leftovers – perfect for a busy week ahead!

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Ingredients (Serves 8):

8 oz legume-based pasta, dry (I used Banza pasta- a chickpea pasta with added pea protein!)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 C plain, 2% Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp all purpose flour

1/2 C parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 C part-skim mozzarella, shredded

2 Tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp garlic powder

1 can (about 15 oz) artichoke hearts, drained well (if salted, rinse and drain to remove excess sodium)

3 Cups frozen, chopped spinach, thawed

1/4 C low sodium vegetable broth

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Nonstick oil cooking spray

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Now just stir in pasta!

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (add a dash of salt if desired).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. While water is boiling, squeeze out any excess water from the spinach and artichokes (they must be dry before adding to recipe). Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add onion, stir and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add minced garlic, stir, and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Add pasta to boiled water and cook according to directions on package, stirring occasionally. Watch the pasta closely, as many legume-based pastas can get mushy quickly! Be careful not to overcook.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, flour, spices (paprika, garlic powder, ground black pepper), parmesan cheese and about 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese. Add spinach, artichokes, onion/garlic mixture and vegetable broth and stir until ingredients are well combined.
  7. Once pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and add to mixing bowl. Stir all ingredients until pasta is coated well with yogurt mixture.
  8. Spray a casserole dish (9 x 13 inches) with nonstick cooking spray, add pasta and yogurt mixture to dish and spread evenly with a spoon or spatula. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove from oven, add the remaining mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: Calories 262 calories, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 15 mg, Carbohydrates 29 g, Fiber 7 g, Protein 19 g, Sodium 318 mg, Calcium 274 mg

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Ready to bake in the oven!

Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

Cauliflower Fried Rice

This “fried rice” takes care of that comfort-food craving, without all of the calories. This veggie-filled dish is topped with eggs and chicken – lean protein sources that are sure to fill you up – and comes in at about 300 calories per serving!

cauliflower fired rice

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 1/2 lbs. cauliflower “rice” (you can buy this at many grocery stores, or you can simply cut a large head of cauliflower into small pieces)

1 lb. chicken breast cutlets

1 medium sweet onion (or you can use scallions), chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3/4 C carrots, sliced

1/2 C frozen peas, thawed

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp rice vinegar

3 Tbsp teriyaki sauce ( I like Trader Joe’s Soyaki) – just watch out for sodium and sugar!

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

Dash ground black pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, scrambled (raw)

chicken stir fryDirections:

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces. Spray large saucepan or wok with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray. Add 2 tsp olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add chicken and 1 1/2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce and cook until cooked through (about 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  2. Steam carrots (you can use a steamer or place in microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover and cook on “high” for about 2 minutes, until softened and bright.
  3. Add 1 tsp olive oil to pan and warm over medium heat. Add onions, zucchini, yellow squash and spices (ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder) and cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes. Add minced garlic, peas, carrots and another 2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce. Cook another 5-7 minutes, remove from pan and add to dish with chicken.
  4. Add remaining olive oil and remaining  teriyaki sauce to pan and warm over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower “rice”and sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Add scrambled eggs and stir until cooked through. Add chicken and veggies, stir until well combined and remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!

veggies stir fry

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories 300 calories, Total Fat 9 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 112 mg, Carbohydrates 23 g, Fiber 7 g, Protein 35 g, Sodium 431 mg, Calcium 96 mg

 

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These chewy oatmeal cookies are the perfect holiday cookie – no one would even guess that they are filled with fiber and boast more protein than the average cookie! Using rolled oats, Greek yogurt, dark chocolate and ground cinnamon, these cookies offer wholesome goodness that taste good, too!

cookies

Ingredients (yields ~ 20 cookies)

1 1/2 C rolled oats

1 C whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 C dark brown sugar

1/4 C honey

1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, scrambled

2 Tbsp plain 0% Greek yogurt

1/4 C dark chocolate chips (try to look for  at least 72% cocoa)

2 Tbsp 1% (low fat) milk

2 Tbsp water

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

batterDirections:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl (oats, flour, baking powder, spices, brown sugar).
  3. Combine wet ingredients in a separate medium bowl (honey, eggs, yogurt, milk, water).
  4. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients in the larger mixing bowl. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spray baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray (you will need two baking sheets).
  6. Scoop batter into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter, roll each ball in your hands and place on baking sheet. Press down on each ball to form a cookie shape (batter is slightly liquid-y, so the cookies may naturally take this shape)
  7. Bake in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, until cookies are browned and a toothpick comes out clean when poked through the center of the cookie. Enjoy!

*store in an airtight container to preserve freshness

*these cookies are extra amazing when warmed slightly in the microwave – just don’t overdo it!

cookie sheet

 

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 136 calories, Total Fat 7 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 18 g, Fiber 3 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 69 mg, Calcium 37 mg

Protein-Packed Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie Made With Whole Wheat Crust

Pumpkin pie is essentially the mascot of the month of November – and this recipe will leave all thankful at your Thanksgiving day table! Loaded with beta carotene (which our bodies can convert to vitamin A), protein and fiber, this hearty dessert actually offers up a slice of nutrition! And for about 200 calories per slice, your belly can be thankful, too!

pie

Ingredients (serves 10):

Crust:

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

3/4 C whole wheat flour

1/2 C all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 C canola oil

2 Tbsp 1% milk

3 Tbsp cold water

Pie Filling:

15 oz canned pumpkin puree (about 2 C)

1 large egg

3 large egg whites

1 C dark brown sugar, unpacked

1 Tbsp all purpose flour

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 C 0% plain Greek yogurt

1/4 C 1% milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp honey

Whole wheat crust!

Whole wheat crust!

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients to make the crust in a large mixing bowl (whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, canola oil, 1% milk and cold water). Mix ingredients together with a spoon to gather, then use your hands to knead the dough so that all ingredients are well combined.

2. Spray a 9″ diameter pie pan with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray. Transfer dough ball to center of pie pan and use your hands to spread the dough evenly, bringing the dough up over the sides and edges of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and egg whites. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar and eggs from smaller bowl. Make sure to smooth any clumps of brown sugar. Add flour, spices, Greek yogurt, milk, honey and vanilla extract to pumpkin mixture and whisk together until well combined.

4. Set aside the batter to thicken. In the meantime, bake the pie crust in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven.

5. Fill the pie crust with the pie filling so that the pan is about 3/4 full. There may be extra filling depending on the depth of your pan (you can repurpose this for other treats or mini pies if you’d like!) and bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour, or until slightly browned. You can check for doneness using a toothpick (make sure that the toothpick comes out clean when dipped into the center of the pie).

6. Chill pie in the fridge until cold and set – about 4 hours minimum. It may help to store it covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper to prevent the pie from absorbing odors from the fridge. After you serve the pie, store in the fridge, covered for up to 3-5 days, or freeze in an airtight container or bag. Enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving (1 serving is one slice that is 1/10th of the pie)

Calories 208 calories, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 19 mg, Carbohydrates 32 g, Fiber 3 g, Protein 6 g, Sodium 217 mg, Calcium 66 mg

Colorful Coleslaw

Coleslaw with Red Cabbage, Broccoli, Carrots and Sunflower Seeds

This lightened up cole slaw puts red cabbage center stage, and doesn’t cover it up with a thick mayo. Instead, veggies are dressed with lemon juice, red wine vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with sunflower seeds – rich in healthy, unsaturated fatty acids. It’s a great salad base when topped with a piece of grilled or baked fish, or served as a side on its own!

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Ingredients (yields approximately 8 C, or about 16- half cup servings):

4 C red cabbage, shredded

2 C carrots, shredded

1 large broccoli crown

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 C red wine vinegar

1/2 C lemon juice (or the juice from about 1 1/2 lemons)

1/4 C sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Cut broccoli crown into florets, rinse and steam until bright green and slightly tender (you can steam them over a pot of boiling water or in the microwave – covered – on high for about 1 minute).
  2. Remove broccoli from microwave and set aside to cool.
  3. Combine cabbage and carrots in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate, small bowl whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside.
  5. Squeeze broccoli dry with paper towel and chop into tiny pieces. Add broccoli to slaw mixture.
  6. Add salt and pepper and pour dressing over slaw. Add sunflower seeds and mix all ingredients. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days.

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 50 calories, Total Fat 4 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 4 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 1 g, Sodium 72 mg, Calcium 23 mg

Presto Pesto!

Homemade Pesto With Basil, Spinach and Walnuts

This homemade pesto incorporates the goodness of spinach (which offers folate, vitamin K and vitamin C) along with omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts, which may help to reduce inflammation. While pesto is naturally caloric and a good source of fat, this version is lightened up by using minimal amounts of olive oil and cheese and is lower in sodium than many store-bought brands. I like to make it on a quiet Sunday so that I can have an easy grab-and-go topping for zucchini noodles, pasta or fish after a hectic Monday – it can stay in the fridge for a few days to save some time on days when you are busy.

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Ingredients (yields approximately 1 cup or about 8 two-tablespoon servings):

2 C basil leaves, loosely packed

1 C spinach, tightly packed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 oz shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/4 C)

1/4 C walnuts, chopped (use unsalted or reduced sodium to lower salt content of dish)

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

All set to blend together!

All set to blend together!

Directions:

  1. Wash spinach and basil and pat dry with paper towel, making sure to remove all excess water. Place in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (you may need to sweep the sides with a spoon a few times to get all spinach and basil leaves incorporated).
  2. Add minced garlic, cheese, chopped walnuts, salt, pepper and about half of the oil to basil spinach mixture in food processor. Secure the lid and turn the food processor to high for about 1 minute.
  3. Add remaining oil, give the mixture a stir, replace the lid of the food processor and continue on high until pesto is smooth. Use as a sauce to accompany your meal or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 102 calories, Total Fat 11 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 4 mg, Carbohydrates 2 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 267 mg, Calcium 46 mg

I served my pesto with zucchini noodles and baked salmon

I served my pesto with zucchini noodles and baked salmon