I’ve posted this quote (source) in a previous weekend wrap-up, but it works really well for me this week.
Confession time: I’m feeling it just as much as you probably are — that pull toward decadence, over-the-top eating, to-heck-with-it-all-until-January-1st-ness. It’s tough to be surrounded by friends, family, and the year’s best food ever. I’m baking up a storm, saying yes to holiday party after holiday party (ok, I actually only said yes to 1 holiday party, it just feels like a lot because I’m the world’s biggest sweatpants-donning homebody ever). I’ve found myself reaching for dessert – Thanksgiving leftovers! I have to eat them before they go bad! Right?!? – basically every night, and I’m feeling, well, sluggish. So I’m refocusing, recommitting, and jumping back on the Healthy Train. Not that those desserts will go to waste, but I’m making a serious, last-ditch effort to be a more mindful person, both with food and life in general. I’m not multitasking while eating; the only thing I’m listening to during my commute to work is classical music; I’m putting my laptop down when L wants to chat. My mind is always racing, my thoughts leaping to 5 new topics before my mouth finishes expressing the original message, and it’s time that I slow down and try to really be in the moment. This week, I have but a small collection of links, but there are a whole bunch all about staying on track during the holidays, and learning how to be more mindful. I hope you find them as helpful as I did!
And don’t forget — treating yourself to delicious food is part of what makes life enjoyable, but be sure to surround those treats with super nutritious meals, and work that physical activity into your day no matter what!
(No Post One Year Ago)
Two Years Ago: Versatile Oven “Fries”
Three Years Ago: Assorted Candy Bar
(Note: this recipe uses ingredients that contain partially hydrogenated oils; I made them just before deciding to virtually eliminate PHOs from my diet. I have not yet tried the recipe with alternative ingredients.)
This Week on Floptimism:
Sunday, December 1st: All About Oil
Tuesday, December 3rd: National Cookie Day Recipe Round-Up
Wednesday, December 4th: #WIAW 33: Healthy Holidays
Thursday, December 5th: Thirty Minute Thursdays: Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches with Stuffing & Cranberry Applesauce
Most Popular Post: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Most Pinned Post: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Most Tweeted Post: Weekend Wrap-Up: Killer Pies
Most Popular Post on Facebook: All About Oil
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How out of touch am I, writing about turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing one full week after Thanksgiving. It’s like the full turkeys this week at the grocery store, marked down to 99 cents per pound and still not moving off the shelves. No one wants to think about turkey right now.
Please think about turkey right now. At least for another 10 minutes.
I made these sandwiches the week before Thanksgiving, or somewhere around there, and ran into a predicament. Maybe I could have posted about the recipe on Thanksgiving Day, but even then, who would want it, really? I either had to stash this away from an entire calendar year, or I’d have to post it the week after Thanksgiving and hope you weren’t totally turkeyed out. And you see, it’s just too delicious to stash away for a year. This is easily one of the best recipes to ever come out of Rachael Ray’s cookbook.
I used deli turkey, but you could just as easily roast your own or slice down leftovers (just not the leftovers from last week — those should either be gone or in the freezer by now, for food safety’s sake). If you use deli turkey, I strongly encourage you to find a store that sells their own, as in, a turkey breast that they roast themselves in the store. It’ll still be full of sodium, but you won’t get the other fillers and preservatives, and I’ve found the quality puts packaged deli meat to shame.
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I meant to do a Thanksgiving What I Ate Wednesday, but forgot until halfway through the day. Luckily, with Hannukkah so early this year, I had a second celebration/holiday dinner planned for the following day — so this is a similar idea. This is what I ate the day of our Hannukkah family dinner, and it’s very close to how I would eat on any other holiday. So as Christmas and New Year’s creep closer, maybe this will help give you some ideas. If you’re looking for more tips, check out my Tips to Stay On Track post from Thanksgiving!
Tip #1 Start off with a good breakfast: 2 Kashi waffles, 1 raspberry Siggi’s yogurt, 1 clementine.
Tip #2 Eat a substantial but balanced meal with fiber and protein about 5 hours before dinner: 1 turkey, spinach and red pepper sandwich on Ezekiel bread (with mustard & olive oil mayo)
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Happy Day 4 of Hannukkah! Since I don’t have recipes for latkes, or sufganiyot (jelly donuts), or any other festive food to share here, I thought I’d take a different approach — today is going to be all about oil. For anyone unfamiliar with the story of Hannukkah, or at least the story as it’s told to children (but that little caveat is a topic for another time, and another blog), here’s the super-duper-superficial cliffnotes version of it: there was a big war and devastation, the underdogs won, there was only enough oil left at the temple to keep things well-lit for one night, but it miraculously lasted 8 instead. Hence, 8 days of Hannukkah, and an alarming preoccupation with delicious, greasy food.
So let’s talk oil: its properties, different types, are they healthy, how to cook with them, everything. Ok, probably not everything, but we’ll cover a lot.
First things first, some facts about oils in general. Oil is a pure fat, which sets it apart from most other sources of fat. Butter, for example, is about 20% water and 80% fat; margarines are generally the same. Oils, on the other hand, are 100% fat. There are other “things” in oils, like vitamins, and which vitamins are there varies from oil to oil, but for the most part, oil is primarily comprised of fat molecules. These fat molecules tend to be unsaturated, which is a chemistry term that refers to carbons and hydrogens and double bonds and a lot of things that might stir up bad high school science class memories for you. If you’re interested in the science behind different types of fats, you can read all about it here and here. Basically, unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and saturated fats are solid at room temperature. The only oils that are made of saturated fats are coconut, palm, and palm kernel, which is why these “oils” are actually fairly solid at room temperature, and why they’ve become so controversial in the are-they-healthy-or-are-they-not debate.
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It should, perhaps, comes as no surprise that food blogs left and right were churning out the most decadent, mouth-watering pies this week. The pictures, the recipes — I was a drooling, bookmarking-crazed mess with it all. You guys — all of you, posting about these irresistible pies — you’re killing me! But only in the tastiest way. I did also manage to find some delicious sounding and looking healthier recipes, and tried out some workouts that actually killed me, so hopefully this has turned into a well-balanced collection of links.
And if you don’t find yourself dreaming day and night of over-the-top pies after this, I may have to question whether or not you’re actually human.
This Week on Floptimism:
Monday, November 25th: Healthy Parfait Recipe Round-Up
Wednesday, November 27th: #WIAW 32: A Week of Snacks & Dessert
Thursday, November 28th: Holiday Tips to Stay On Track (these work equally well for all holiday gatherings, not just Thanksgiving, so check it out for the winter holidays, too!)
Most Popular Post: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Most Pinned Post: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Most Tweeted Post: Healthy Parfait Recipe Round-Up
Most Popular Post on Facebook: National Cake Day Recipe Round-Up
What I’ve Pinned This Week:
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I’m skipping my Thirty Minute Thursday post today to wish everyone a happy and a healthy Thanksgiving! I’d also like to wish everyone celebrating, an equally happy and healthy Hannukkah! It feels very bizarre to have the two holidays overlap. One thing that it means for anyone celebrating both is that your celebration has probably just been extended. I know that this holiday has turned from one day of food overload into three: first, there’s L’s mom’s family’s Thanksgiving tonight; then, there’s my family’s Belated Thanksgivukkah tomorrow; and we’ll round out the weekend with a foodie get-together with L’s dad’s side of the family after that. As if Thanksgiving weren’t challenging enough for many people to stay on track with their health goals, now anyone who also celebrates Hannukkah must learn how to stay on track with two back-to-back celebrations.
I don’t want to keep you from family and friends too long, but I did want to go over a few last minute tips that might help you if you are concerned about how to fit these holiday meals into your health journey.
- Start the day off positively. This involves two things: first, eat really, really nutritiously. It’s tempting to say, I know I’m going to eat way too much tonight, so I’m just going to not eat very much at all throughout the day to save up my calories. Theoretically, yes, you will probably save calories that way, but studies show that you will likely wind up eating more than you would have otherwise at dinner, because you’re going to be so ravenous. It also wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels (even if you’re not diabetic), which in turn affects your mood and energy. Don’t be afraid to nourish yourself today.
- This is also where physical activity comes into play. Try to wake up a little earlier if that’s what it takes, but find time for at least 20 minutes of moderate activity — a brisk walk, a game of touch football, your favorite exercise dvd, or an extra session at the gym. This isn’t meant to expend calories so that you’re “allowed” to eat more at dinner, but it’s to put you in the healthful mindset. Approach the day as one of many days where you’re working toward a goal. The activity will give you energy, maybe blow off some steam if you feel stress mounting, and help keep health and wellness at the forefront of your mind throughout the day.
- Bring a healthy dish with you, wherever you’re going. And make sure it’s something you enjoy eating! This way, you know that no matter what is served, you have one dish that you can feel safe eating. If you’re a muncher and tend to go a little overboard on hors d’oeuvres, bring a low-fat, high fiber bean dip with tons of fresh veggies. If you can’t resist that green bean casserole, bring your own twist on it — either homemade and “healthified,” or a simple green bean saute with slivered almonds. And if dessert is your weakness, bring a healthy dessert, preferably fruit-based. Choose the part of the meal that is going to be the biggest challenge for you, and make sure you have the tools needed to rise to the occasion.
- Know what’s worth it to you in terms of calories and what isn’t. Ask yourself if you’re eating because it’s there, or because it’s truly a special food and you want to enjoy it. This is all about checking in with yourself and being mindful. Maybe appetizers include those thaw-and-heat pigs in blankets versus your Uncle’s famous spinach and artichoke dip, and you only see your Uncle a few times a year. Do you want the pigs in blankets, which you can have virtually any day of the year, or your Uncle’s dip? Don’t deprive yourself of the special foods that you love, but learn to balance it by saying no to the things that don’t really mean very much to you.
- Eat something with a bit of fiber about an hour before you head out. This could be a small bowl of oatmeal, a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, you name it. But by walking into the gathering feeling satiated rather than famished, it will be easier to resist the temptation of empty calories and mindless eating.
- Have a check-in buddy. Maybe it’s your husband, or your mom, or your best friend, but let someone know of your goals for the evening and ask them to give you a gentle nudge every once in a while. All the time, L will lean over and whisper, Are you sure you want that? He’s not judging, and a perfectly legitimate answer is, Yes, I am sure. It’s only meant to be a little external alarm clock, a little pinch on the arm to say, Hey, I’m just checking in. It can be enough to bring you back to the present and be reminded of your goals for yourself, because the little voice in your head is very easy to override.
- Watch the alcohol. Keep in mind that moderate drinking is only 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men, and that studies don’t actually show benefits to starting to drink if you don’t already. It’s ok to have a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a signature cocktail, but try to limit it to 1-2 drinks, spaced out with water, and not on an empty stomach. All of these beverages have calories, and while I don’t think you necessarily need to spend the night counting calories, you do want to be sure that if you choose to drink, you’re practicing balance and moderation with other aspects of the meal.
- Try to eat on a smaller plate. This may not be in your control, but if it is, do it. We eat with our eyes first, and small portions on a huge plate look significantly less satisfying than they do on a small plate. You’ll not only be forced to choose less, or at least less at one serving, but you’ll feel much more satiated by the smaller portion if it’s on a smaller plate, too.
- Pace yourself. If you find yourself tempted to get seconds, or fill up an appetizer plate with chips and dip, wait — 5 minutes, 10 minutes, ideally 15 minutes. It takes our brains 20 minutes to get the signal from our stomachs that we’re full, so eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and enjoy the conversations going on around you. Give your brain some time to play catch-up, and if you decide after waiting that you do still really want that extra serving of ____, only then go for it.
- If you do wind up eating too much, go for a walk after dinner. Rally up the troops, bundle up if it’s cold, and do something lightly physically active after the meal. Moving muscles utilize glucose more easily, which means that by getting up and moving around, you can help your body take care of the extra sugar in your bloodstream. I don’t recommend running a marathon after a heavy meal, and certainly give it about 20-30 minutes to digest a little bit, but a brisk walk, a game of tag with the kids, something like that is perfectly ok and actually very beneficial.
- Get back on the horse. No matter what, do not beat yourself up over what happens today. You can’t change it, and studies have suggested that feeling negatively about food, a meal, or yourself might actually negatively affect your ability to break down and properly utilize the nutrients from that meal. Frame of mind is everything, and remember that one day will not make or break your ability to reach your goals. Jot down how this set back made you feel, and recommit yourself to start again tomorrow — not after Christmas, not on January 1st; tomorrow.
- Work out the next day. No excuses. And no, a day at the mall probably doesn’t count, unless you’re new to physical fitness and that’s the point you’re at right now. Do something to get your heart rate up and make you out of breath. Don’t half do it, either. This isn’t about punishment for the night before, or working off those calories you ate. Similar to how important it is to work out the day of Thanksgiving, it’s crucial to be physically active and eat well the day after to get yourself right back on track. Fight the urge to throw in the towel until New Year’s. The faster you get back on the health horse, the less of an impact Thanksgiving, or Hannukkah, or any single meal or day, will have on your overall progress.
Do you have any tips or tools you use to get through the holidays?
I have to say, I wasn’t sure how this week’s What I Ate Wednesday would go. I don’t really snack between meals — I generally don’t eat until I’m sufficiently hungry, and then, I sit down for a full meal. For the past few weeks I haven’t even been eating after dinner, which is weird for me. Three square meals a day, and I was fine. But this week, I not only had more of an appetite post-dinner (partially because there were several days where “dinner” was, I hate to admit, like 4pm…), but I also had a few instances where I was eating between meals, mostly if I was asked to sample a product at work. So here you have it — a week in the life of my snacks and desserts. Please don’t revoke my RD license?
(incredibly out-of-focus) Homemade streusel (from a failed ice cream mix-in experiment) and Krave chocolate cereal, almond milk.
Pure Chocolate Raspberry protein bar
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So, everything I’m about to share with you is technically a lie. How’s that for an introduction? Here’s the deal: I’m sure that National Parfait Day must refer to real parfaits, as in the French dessert, as in a frozen treat made of layers. I make a lot of parfaits, but a very American interpretation of them. Basically, I use parfait as a loose term to describe every single recipe I make involving some sort of fruit spread on top of some sort of yogurt.
^^ Sweet Mashed Sweet Potatoes ^^
(turned into a parfait)
While this may not be an authentic round-up for National Parfait Day, it’s certainly a delicious one. It’s also a very nutritious one — you see, yogurt can be extremely healthy, but it can also be about as sugary, refined, and preserved as a candy bar. The only way I’ve found to truly enjoy yogurt healthfully is to take plain yogurt, generally Greek though there are certainly benefits to regular yogurt too, and sweeten it myself. Most of these recipes call for plain yogurt, but by the time you add in all of the delicious fruit and spices, you’d never know it. You don’t need pre-sweetened yogurts or added sugars mixed into plain yogurt to have a breakfast parfait that tastes good to you, I promise. There are so many ways to naturally add both sweetness and flavor to a dish, and this round-up is the perfect example of that.
What’s your favorite yogurt topping?
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