Graceful Health: How to lighten your holiday table

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It is possible to enjoy the holidays without gaining weight. Here are a few tips for natural weight control during this festive season.

Chew your food thoroughly. This way, the nutrients get into your blood stream faster and you'll feel fuller sooner.

Limit yourself to only one high fiber carb/starch per meal or snack.

Eat fruit with a meal as desert. This satisfies your sweet tooth, and the fruit glucose is cushioned in the digestive process with a high fiber and protein meal.

Eat gluten-free as much as possible, reducing inflammation in the gut.

Exercise. Figure out a plan that is simple and feels possible. Think in terms of moving the body. Intensity can come later. It doesn't take a lot to burn fat, it just takes consistency. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. Walk around when on the phone. Take short walks. Three 10-minute walks interspersed throughout a day count as the 30-minute total.

Relax! Controlling stress helps with weight loss. Relaxing stops the fight/flight syndrome. It helps the adrenals to stop producing cortisol and tells the body to not hold onto calories, thus helping your body release stored fat naturally. Relaxing helps to reduce the LDL cholesterol and blood glucose. Do tai chi, yoga, meditate, read a light-hearted book, anything to help you relax.

Eat nutrient-rich foods to help the body not crave more food.

Get a good sleep. This is essential for weight loss. Conquer poor sleep with exercise, by eating no carbs after dinner, by avoiding added sugar in your diet, by controlling portions, and by eating small meals six times a day. Your body's housekeeping time is sleep. Get more sleep during the holidays to counterbalance the stress.

Have 10-plus grams of protein before a party, for example, turkey rollups. Chew till mushy. Or drink a quick and easy protein shake.

Have a glass of water before/between alcoholic or sugary drinks.

Focus on protein and high fiber vegetable sources at a party.

Focus on fellowship first — food second.

A small taste of the fun foods chewed thoroughly helps reduce quantity.

Bring something healthy that you enjoy to a pot-luck.

No sugar for 10 days will eliminate the craving.

Do not use diet drinks as a water substitute. Diet drinks stimulate the appetite.

Remember: grains and sugar are the biggest culprits for weight gain.

Eating lighter is not as difficult as it might seem. Small changes can lead to big results!

There are plenty of ways to adapt recipes, making your favorite foods both delicious and lighter. Here are three examples.

Gluten-free Frittata. Combine one cup finely chopped organic baby spinach leaves (I put them in the food processor), one cup finely chopped organic scallions, one cup coarsely chopped organic Baby Bella mushrooms, 10 hormone and chemical free eggs, one-quarter cup organic soy milk, one-quarter teaspoon paprika. Blend or beat eggs with soy milk and paprika. Fold into vegetables. Pour into pre-oiled pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean from the center. Serve hot. Makes eight servings.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Combine one pound of cooked macaroni noodles (or brown rice noodles), one head of cooked cauliflower (approximately three cups), 12 ounces of cottage cheese, and three to four ouncers of grated cheddar cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Optional: add a dash of smoked paprika. Puree cooked cauliflower with cottage cheese. Add cheddar cheese and blend. Add spices. Put pureed mixture on top of noodles and into a casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. You can add crushed almonds as a topping. Makes eight servings. (Recipe courtesy of Nancy Schaefer, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Community Health Team Health Coach.)

Wild Salmon with Rosemary and Garlic. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine one-quarter cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, two chopped garlic cloves, one-half teaspoon black pepper, three-quarter teaspoon fine sea salt or coarse kosher salt in a mortar and crush with pestle, or blend in mini processor, until coarse paste forms. Mix in four teaspoons grape seed or other oil. Rinse the fish (use six wild-caught four to six ounce salmon fillets or other fresh fish). Pat dry with a paper towel, and place on a baking sheet. Rub the mixture over the top of the fish. Position rack in center of oven. Roast the salmon until an instant-read thermometer reaches 130 degrees. Place on platter and serve. Serves six. ("The Best of the Summit: Recipes by Presenters of the 2014 Reversing Diabetes World Summit."

Elizabeth Harrison is a board certified clinical nutritionist. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from Western College for Women (now Miami University of Ohio). Her board certification is through the International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists. As a member of the Grace Cottage Community Health Team, Harrison provides resources and skills to develop healthy habits, and runs monthly support groups. The services of the Grace Cottage Community Health Team are free for all Grace Cottage patients.


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