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Healthful Holiday Eating: A Savvy Survivor’s Guide

By Reema Sayegh, PhD

reemaSayeghIt’s that time of year again! Don’t we all look forward to getting together with friends and family, attending office parties, shopping the malls, and decking the halls?

What follows is basic survival strategy in order partake in all festivities and still fit into our clothes in January!

When we’re about to fall over from shopping overload, and need a quick meal at the food court, we can make a sensible choice that won’t eat up half a day’s caloric ration. McDonald’s has a snack size frozen yogurt parfait (sans granola) for 130 calories. Chick-Fil-A offers a small size chicken soup for 140 calories, and Taco Bell has a pintos-n-cheese cup for 180 calories. These options are not elaborate, gourmet meals, but they can hold us over until we get home to continue more healthful selections!

When shopping for holiday groceries cruise the periphery of the grocery store and skip the snack aisle! Now’s the time to grab some whole foods (think: fruits and vegetables), pre-made salads and deli items as well.

When it’s time for the office soiree, it’s always a good idea to eat a small snack beforehand. Some almonds and an apple can really “fill in the gaps” and if we can also drink eight to 12 ounces of water prior to the event, we’ll really be ahead of the game.

At the party, it’s best to sit away from the food and put the fork down between bites. Remember portions, too! One ounce of cheese is roughly the size of a pair of dice. Instead of chips and dip, try crudités and salsa. Just that substitution alone can save over 300 calories, boost fiber and antioxidant intake, and fill us up. Eat slowly, as it really does take a minimum of 20 minutes for us to realize we’re full. If we’re imbibing, we need to remember that a glass of wine tops out at around 150 calories, is high in sugar, and does not count as a resveratrol serving. If we order some fruit juice with a splash of Seltzer water, we can save almost 100 calories!

Got family obligations? No problem! Try a dish of steamed vegetables in lieu of the green bean casserole, or baked sweet potatoes in lieu of the gooey marshmallow version. If cooking red meat, select leaner cuts like loin, round and extra lean, and roast, bake, braise or broil. If the bird’s the thing, remove the skin prior to serving and try cooking the stuffing separately. Pass on seconds, and sit quietly when you’ve finished the food, remembering that not every social gathering has to be all about the food.

Finally, don’t be overzealous with your goals this time of year. It’s stressful enough to brave the weather, traffic, crowds, office jokes, and challenging family members! Don’t add trying to lose weight to the equation. Be realistic, and tell yourself you will maintain your current weight through the holiday season. Having clothes that fit on New Year’s Day is quite an accomplishment in and of itself.

Happy Holidays!

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Quinoa

This ancient grain provides the body with the all essential amino acids for protein building, is a complex carbohydrate to fuel the body, and is gluten-free and typically non-allergenic.

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Sea Vegetables

Long the staple of macrobiotic diets, sea vegetables have become an increasingly popular addition to American diets. Perhaps the popularity of sushi has exposed more mainstream consumers to the delicious taste and health benefits of seaweed.

There is no doubt that vegetables from the sea can provide a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Ounce for ounce, sea vegetable pack a big vitamin and mineral “punch,” providing good sources for calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamins C, E and K. It is clear, then, why many cultures believe that it is wise to consume sea vegetables on a daily basis.

However, sea vegetables are also a source of sodium. Red Mountain Executive Chef Dale Van Sky says that while sea vegetables provide a natural source of iodine and other healthful minerals, persons who must limit their salt intake should know that sea vegetables may contain greater amounts of sodium than other vegetables. At Red Mountain, a wonderful nori soup is served regularly. Also, agar agar is used as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin in the sorbet.

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Food is Much More Than Just Fuel

Food is emotional, familial, ethnic, social, cultural and religious and, by the way, it is also fuel for our bodies. Eating is one of the most intimate and profound acts we perform. It is true communion; we are actually taking in energy sources from nature and the food literally becomes part of our very cells.

Therefore, it is not surprising that we have imbued food situations with complex levels of meaning. The emotional associations with food begin before we know words. We pick up on the emotional energy of the feeding experience. Parents pass down their attitudes about food to their children, whether consciously or unconsciously.

The issue, then, is how many of these subconscious attitudes and beliefs are driving our food choices and are the consequences of these food choices causing problems? If your health is good, including an appropriate body weight and body composition, healthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar, then your food intake is probably in balance.

However, if you have been trying to improve your nutrition choices and you keep “failing” due to deep, unconscious feelings about food, then you may want to examine some of your food choices and eating “triggers.”

In our culture, one of the most common examples of a situation triggering eating behavior is going to the movies and eating popcorn. The association is strengthened by the wonderful aroma of popcorn, and the fact that it is a high glycemic, high fat food which tends to encourage overeating. But, unless you go to the movies (and eat tons of movie popcorn) several times a week, it is probably not the main cause of dietary imbalance.

There are lots of other social situations that tend to trigger desire to eat certain foods: kick-back nights and pizza, carnivals and cotton candy, street fairs and kettle corn. But, the real issue is usually the more personally associations because these may happen daily and many times throughout the day. If your daily food choices are driven by emotional triggers, it could cause serious nutritional problems.

The most common emotional triggers for consuming certain foods are stress, anxiety, nervousness, happiness, depression, anger, fear and boredom. We may have a specific food “fix” or it may be a taste, such as sweet, salty, crunchy, fatty or any combination of these.

One of the best defenses against emotional eating is eating well. If you are well nourished and not overly hungry or feeling deprived, you will be less susceptible to temptation. A good dietitian can help you set up a personalized, healthy eating plan. Depending on the severity of the eating issues, other ways to deal with emotional eating may be nutrition counseling, psychological counseling or group support such as Overeaters Anonymous.

Whether one chooses outside support or attempts to change their habits with self awareness, it is essential that the approach be positive and loving. At the deepest level, we associate food with love. Therefore, we can’t force ourselves to change using rigid ideas and harsh discipline. We must fill the emotional void with positive feelings.

Old, destructive eating habits can be replaced with an understanding that eating well is a sacred act of self care and love. We can make new associations by viewing our new eating habits as daily affirmations of health and wellness.

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Lentils

These legumes are loaded with amino acids (the building blocks of protein), iron, B-vitamins, fiber and minerals. They’re also relatively low in calories and contain a trace amount of fat.

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Tips for Cooking Bison

By Dale Van Sky, Executive Chef

Bison and grain fed beef have a lower fat content so lowering the temperature by 25 degrees will slow the cooking process. This allows the internal temperature to reach the desired doneness without over cooking the exterior.

Cooking times will vary in accordance to the cut on meat; I recommend a meat thermometer to check doneness.

Never press any meat, burger, steak or chicken; this will squeeze out the juices producing a dryer product. When cooking roasts you should let them rest because while they are cooking the juices are forced towards the middle of the meat. Letting it rest allows those juices to rejuvenate through the meat.

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An Interview about Antioxidants with Dr. Brad Crump, Health Services Manager

BradCrumpQ: With all the fad diets that come and go, why is a diet that is rich in antioxidants worth holding on to?
A: Antioxidants are those nutrients that can slow down oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress can be looked at as “rusting” in the body. Where there is oxygen, there will be reactions that produce free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that have the capacity to cause cell and tissue damage. Antioxidants are nutrients that can make free radicals more stable and decrease their ability to cause harmful reactions in the body.

Due to the environment in which we live and even through the normal process of detoxification where free radical s are produced, it becomes essential to provide the body a constant source of antioxidant rich foods.

Q: Can you suggest some super fruits that are worth adding to your diet due to their antioxidant benefits?
A: According to the best research, those fruits that are most beneficial for their antioxidant benefits are:

  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Pomegranates
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Oranges
  • Red Grapes
  • Cranberry
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Prunes

You can never go wrong with berries. They are nutrient dense, have a low glycemic index and of course, are a rich source of disease fighting antioxidants.

Q: Does Red Mountain Resort & Spa has an antioxidant diet or detox diet?
A: Red Mountain has a monthly detoxification week where a specific menu is provided for those participating in the program. The meals plans consist of antioxidant rich foods and detoxification smoothies as well as other anti-inflammatory foods.

The meal plans specifically remove the most common allergenic/inflammatory foods including dairy, wheat, gluten, corn, refined flours and sugars, alcohol and caffeine. It also includes a wide variety of antioxidant dense foods such as berries and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, red peppers, onions and eggplant.

Q: How do you recommend making an antioxidant rich diet part of ones' life?
A: All meals and snack should consist of a healthy amount of antioxidant rich foods. The key is to identify those that are most pleasing to you and incorporate them into diet. Most people enjoy having a smoothie for breakfast. This can consist of a wide variety of antioxidant rich fruits. Adding blueberries to oatmeal or other hot cereal is an option. At Red Mountain, we utilize special extracts that can be added to water to make them more flavorful and increase intake of these health promoting nutrients.

Q: Can you drink your antioxidants?
A: Preparing an antioxidant rich drink is a convenient and effective way of adding antioxidants to your diet. As mentioned, Red Mountain utilizes detox smoothies and extracts added to water. We always encourage eating whole foods to increase fiber consumption.

A daily smoothie is a great way to get your antioxidants. Here is a sample of a healthy smoothie:

½ cup of apple juice
½ banana
1/8 cup blueberries
1/8 cup raspberries
1/8 cup blackberries
1/8 cup strawberries
2 tbs ground flax seed
1 scoop of rice protein powder
2-3 ice cubes

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Sunflower Seeds

A nutritional power pack, Sunflower seeds are a great source of healthy fat, protein and fiber and are loaded with vital nutrients like vitamin E, zinc, selenium, folate and iron.

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1275 E. Red Mountain Circle
Ivins, Utah, United States
84738

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