UBC dietitian offers tips and recipes for holiday feasting
Kara Vogt, a registered dietitian and dietetics education coordinator in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, offers tips and recipe ideas for having a jolly—and healthy—holiday season.
Should people deprive themselves over the holidays?
Deprivation is definitely not necessary and may leave us more vulnerable to over-indulgence. The holidays are typically an exciting and celebratory time, and we eat special things that we only have once a year. It’s not always necessary to be completely strict and vigilant to maintain good health.
Set realistic goals about how you want to maintain your self-care and health this holiday season, whether it’s getting out for a walk several times a week or just indulging in a bite of a treat instead of a large piece.
Is there anything people can do to avoid over-consuming?
Mindfulness is a helpful concept to apply to holiday eating. Be really thoughtful about what you choose to eat. At holiday celebrations, there can be temptation to just eat things because they’re in front of us.
If you’re going to have something to eat or drink, consciously decide to consume it. Being intentional and thoughtful about what we’re putting into our mouths goes a long way in making us feel more satisfied and helping us naturally curb our intake to a healthy amount.
Do you have any tips on loading up your plate at the meal?
A classic recommendation is to aim to fill half your plate with vegetables. So start with vegetable dishes first. At a family-style meal with platters of all kinds of things, scan the table and start off with just a bit of each food you want. You can always have more if you really want seconds.
Tweak your holiday meal: some recipe ideas from Kara Vogt
1. Rethink the bird
Turkey is a traditional staple for a lot of people, but if you’re craving a change, another nutritious option is a lean cut of pork, such as tenderloin.
Salmon is another fresh idea, and really accessible on the west coast. It doesn’t need much to taste delicious; a bit of seasoning, such as fresh dill, lemon zest or maple syrup, will make it taste fabulous.
2. Swap the stuffing
For a real switch-up, a rice pilaf or risotto can be an interesting non-traditional twist. Short-grain rice (also known as Arborio rice), used to make risotto, releases starch as it cooks. This creates a wonderfully creamy texture without any cream.
3. Put away the masher
When mashing potatoes or vegetables, we typically add butter and cream to achieve a smooth texture and rich flavour. A lighter approach is to roast instead of mash. You can roast many vegetables with just a little drizzle of olive oil and your favorite spices.
Roasting vegetables at a high temperature, such as 400 or 425, will give them a nice crunchy crust. This is a great way to change up potatoes or yams. Roasted cauliflower is also delicious with just olive oil, and a sprinkle of cumin or thyme. Green beans are another tasty choice to roast, with toasted chopped almonds sprinkled on top to finish.
4. Get saucy
Instead of buying cranberry sauce, which has a lot of added sugar, make your own. It’s easy, and you can control how much sugar you add. Simple homemade cranberry sauce only requires cranberries, water, and sugar. Many recipes call for about one-half to one cup of sugar per bag of fresh cranberries. You can start with half this amount and add more sugar to taste as you go.
5. Sweeten the deal
When it comes to holiday desserts, if you can fit in a fruit or vegetable, it’s always a win. A crumble or cobbler is a nice option, as the star of these dishes is delicious berries or other fruits.
Another way to help with portion control is to purchase mini bake pans to make smaller versions of classic treats such as cupcakes or tarts. This makes it easier to enjoy just a bite or two of a decadent dessert. If serving a large dessert, cut it up into smaller pieces.
Instead of whipped cream, consider experimenting with Greek yogurt. It has a thick, rich texture, as well as high protein and calcium. Try adding natural sweetness to plain Greek yogurt with a bit of honey, maple syrup, or vanilla extract. Or use a flavoured yogurt.