Ah, the holidays: When there are more calories on the table for one meal than you might otherwise eat in a week! It’s okay to indulge.
But making some small menu changes, and smarter ingredient choices, may mean less weight gain and feeling better about yourself at the start of the New Year.
Guilt-free meal survival strategies:
– Get a full night’s sleep the night before. The holiday will be less stressful, and a lack of sleep will take its toll.
– Eat breakfast. Don’t save up for the big meal. Eating right away in the morning will help get your metabolism moving, and prevent you from overeating later in the day.
– Work out. This is another metabolism booster. Try to schedule exercise time in the morning, before things get too hectic.
– Be smart when splurging on convenience foods. “Prepackaged items – from dinner rolls to desserts – have a place on your table because they can save you time in the kitchen.
Just be sure to read the labels,” advises Chef Gerard Viverito, who specializes in healthy, sustainable cuisine.
“Even foods labeled “zero trans fats” may still contain this unhealthy ingredient.
Better to avoid anything that contains hydrogenated oils, and look for items made with naturally trans fat-free palm oil instead.
About 80 percent of our palm oil comes from Malaysia, where it is certified sustainably grown. So it’s also healthy for our environment.”
– Serve two entrees. “In addition to your family’s traditional turkey, ham or roast beef, consider giving people the lower calorie and very nutritious option of wild-caught U.S. seafood,” says Viverito. “American fisheries have some of the most stringent ecological rules in the world.
Be open to introducing your family and friends to a different fish species.
If we ate what the oceans were sustainably supplying instead of insisting on only a few preferred fish species, we would further cut down on overfishing our waters.”
– Drink water throughout the day. It will help keep you from nibbling.
– Wait at least a half hour between dinner and dessert.
Your brain will have to time to get the message to your stomach that you are full, and you won’t eat as much dessert (or any).
Gift the gift of better health
Since this is also gift-giving season, here are some better-for-you ideas that friends and family members will enjoy. –
Think usable gifts, such as sustainably sourced food or beauty products: Many families are trying to live in a smaller footprint and just don’t want more stuff coming into their homes.
Instead of loading your shopping cart at the local discount store with gifts that may be soon forgotten or discarded, choose consumable gifts such as food or beauty products.
For the foodie on your list, couple non-GMO Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil with some artisan popcorn or sustainable seafood for some culinary inspiration.
Palm-based soaps and lotions also make ecofriendly gifts.
– Help recipients get fit.
Get them in the mood to exercise with running shoes and sports socks, an equipment bag, swimming goggles or other equipment.
– Look for up-cycled or fair trade items: Consider where it comes from, how it’s made, how it got to you, what it’s made out of and what the recipient will do with it after it’s done.
Another way to boost the sustainability quotient is to look for locally made products or shop at small businesses.
Find local mom-and-pop stores at the Small Business Saturday website.
– Choose other healthy options : Green their space with a new plant. Give a subscription to a healthy living magazine. Or buy them a healthy cooking cookbook.
– Try for zero waste: Instead of wrapping paper, which gets crumpled and thrown in the trash, wrap gifts in bags, fabric or newspaper.
Rethink your approach to your holiday meals and celebrations.
These healthier swaps may just be the start of newer, healthier family traditions.
Chef Gerard Viverito is the proud Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, a NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas.
He is currently on the faculty of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York and regularly appears on cooking segments across the U.S.
He is also very active in the community of local farmers and his commitment to sustainable food practices extends to his role as the director of his true food based catering company Gerard’s Catering.
Chef Viverito’s pantry is loaded with items commonly overlooked in the supermarkets, yet he has a thorough understanding of them and a passion to teach others how to cook more healthfully. www.ChefGerard.com www.passionfish.org