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Sharp Health News

How dietitians navigate the holidays

Dec. 18, 2018

How dietitians navigate the holidays

Holiday parties are a wonderful opportunity to catch up with co-workers, friends and family. They often feature delicious — but not always healthful — dishes. Three Sharp dietitians offer their tips and favorite recipes to help you navigate these food-filled festivities.

Ursula Ridens, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor at Sharp HealthCare

Balance is key
If I avoid eating something that I love just because it’s high in fat or sugar, then I end up feeling unsatisfied. Rather than fearing the foods that may be rich and considered unhealthy, I focus on choosing a balance of foods including fruits, veggies, whole grains and protein. I find it’s best to allow some of my favorite, less-nourishing foods among a balance of other foods that boost my health.

Favorite recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables With Apple Cider Vinaigrette
I really enjoy making (and eating!) colorful roasted root veggies and whole-grain salads. While it’s fun to make traditional recipes, I’m always up for whipping up a new dish.

Bridget Quinn, a registered dietitian at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center

Be prepared, and take your time
I eat breakfast every day to avoid overeating or cravings later in the day. Because the holiday season is so busy, I keep my water bottle with me to stay well-hydrated. I make sure to sit down, eat slowly and enjoy the meal instead of grazing throughout the holiday party.

Favorite recipe: Almond-Crusted Salmon
Salmon is a good source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Coat with a mixture of almond meal and lemon juice instead of panko for a crispy, healthful holiday meal.

Lauren Elliott, registered dietitian and wellness education specialist at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers

Focus on family, not food
Holiday gatherings are a wonderful opportunity to spend time with those we might not see frequently throughout the year. I try to focus on enjoying the conversation rather than the food.

Be mindful about your food choices
I try to be strategic with my choices. I often ask myself: “Is this a food I can enjoy at other times of the year or is it a special food that I will enjoy eating? What food will be most satisfying to me?”

Favorite recipe: Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili
Yields 8 servings

1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, juice included
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
2 cups fresh pumpkin*, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, to taste

*Use a pie pumpkin, or substitute 1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin puree.

In a large pot over medium, heat the avocado oil. Once heated, add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for a few more minutes until the spices are fragrant. Add the tomatoes with juice, black beans, pumpkin, vegetable broth, salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to low, cover partially and let simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring often. The more the chili cooks, the more the flavors meld together, so feel free to cook longer.

“I like to remind myself that healthful food and holiday food are not mutually exclusive. There are lots of fantastic ways to enjoy seasonal meals that are also full of vitamins, minerals and fiber,” says Elliott.

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