It is new years eve day and the dawn of a new year is quickly approaching. As humans we approach newness with a sense of hope and excitement. It is an opportunity to begin untarnished with fresh beginnings. We quickly build visions of where we wish to be a few months from now or at this same moment in twelve months time, having accomplished so much and nearer our goals and hopes than we have ever been before. Perhaps you sit there now looking back at last year, reflecting on what you may have accomplished, mountains you have climbed or seas you have crossed. Perhaps you see other peaks that had the best of you and still you didn’t reach the pinnacle. It is often a nostalgic day and the end to a very busy holiday season.
Soon the days will feel longer with more sunlight to light each step. Soon the snow will melt and the flowers will bloom. Soon it will be March and then June. We sit here on new years eve looking into the next 365 days and ask ourselves, what will we do, who will we become? I love the hope this time brings. It feels similar to sitting on a ship looking for a light house in the pitch dark, and the rays starting to become evident in the distance, land!
We tend to mark time and seasons and we set goals. Goals for health, goals for business, goals for the family and relationships, and retirement. As we reach to these goals, if we are not making the deadlines that we have set for ourselves, discouragement often creeps in. I would like to encourage all my readers to approach each day of this new year with the same hope and enthusiasm as they feel at this moment. Every day gives you opportunity to reach, to make decisions, to commit. Every day is a fresh slate, clean and untarnished. Every day affords you the opportunity to make decisions that support your goals, whatever they may be.
Set some goals. Then ask yourself, “will this action support my goals”. If your goal is weight loss, it will help you to stop and ask yourself “will this action support my goals” as you sit down to a huge bowl of tortilla chips and salsa or the desserts hiding in your pantry. You will clearly be able to say, “no”. Then stop and respect yourself enough to make a different decision. If the goal is to get out of credit card debt, it will help you to stop and ask yourself the question “will this movie be just as fun to watch on my couch in six months when I have no more revolving debt instead of paying $15 bucks a ticket and seeing it tonight with friends”. The answer will be clear. Set some goals, stop and ask yourself the hard questions, answer honestly, slow down your decision making, and reflect on the hope you feel right now, at the dawn of a new year, remember this feeling, and you will be more successful making these small changes that support your major life goals.
Tips for beating the holiday hangover.
As a functional medicine Dietitian I am not encouraging copious amounts of alcohol intake. Alcohol is a neurotoxin and for many individuals it drives hormonal imbalances, liver damage and unnecessary weight gain. The tips in this blog are find for the occasional night out and are meant to help you get back on track again, okay? Agree? Good. Let’s get started.
EAT WELL. Don’t skip dinner (or lunch and snacks for that matter). Alcohol is absorbed more quickly when poured into an empty stomach. Make sure you have a good, well-balanced meal when you are drinking.
SAY NO TO CAFFEINATED COCKTAILS. Walk away from the Red Bull and Vodka. Alcohol is a punch to the liver, don’t mix it with another: caffeine. Allowing your body to detox one major chemical at a time is better than mixing it with caffeine and whatever other crazy chemicals are found in Red Bull.
TAKE YOUR MULTIVITAMIN. Having adequate B vitamins will help your body detox alcohol and can assist in a shortened hangover the next day. Most multi vitamins have adequate amounts of the B vitamins. Take you multi the day you plan to drink and the day after to support your bodies detoxification pathways.
EAT AN ORANGE. You body will also need electrolytes and vitamin C. If you don’t like oranges consider a bell pepper. Or drinking an EmergenC is a good alternative.
DRINK UP THE H20. For every one alcoholic beverage, drink 1 large glass of water or coconut water. Stay away from sugary beverages on a night you drink. These make hangovers so bad.
WAKE UP AND DO WHAT? Exercise, drink some caffeine, try another coconut water and if it’s really bad, pop a few advils.
Alcohol has more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrate. It is also metabolized in a different way than other foods. Because it is a toxin in the body, your body will always preferentially metabolize alcohol, meaning other foods have to wait. Your body will send signals to store other food as fat while it is metabolizing alcohol. It can affect your metabolism for hours even after the alcohol consumption stops. So do yourself a favor and limit the amount of evenings you choose to partake in alcohol. This is for your overall health, but also for you weight loss efforts.
At my house, the level of success on Thanksgiving is usually determined by how rich and luscious the gravy is to pour over the top of, well, EVERYTHING ELSE. Since it tops, just about everything, it better be perfect. However, perfect doesn't need to mean complicated.
There are two important components to a good gravy, a good roux and good turkey stock. You can make a turkey stock the day or two ahead of the big day(or purchase in a box). You could even make weeks ahead of time and freeze.
No Brainer Turkey Stock
3 pounds turkey wings
1 turkey neck
4 celery stalks
Fresh Rosemary and Sage
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Any giblets you have available (ask the butcher for some if your turkey didn't come with them)
Preheat oven to 450°. Spread turkey wings and turkey neck on a rack set in a large heavy roasting pan. Brush with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper; roast until browned, about 1 hour. Coarsely chop carrots, celery stalks, and onions; toss with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Arrange around turkey parts. Roast until vegetables brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a large pot. Add giblets and 16 cups (1 gallon) water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, skimming surface occasionally, for 3 hours. Strain into another pot; boil until reduced to 2 quarts, about 30 minutes longer.
The apple cider vinegar is very important to pull any calcium from the bones which will up the mineral and health factor of your gravy.
So once you have this incredible stock, let's talk about a perfect roux.
What is a roux? (pronounced roo) A roux is equal parts butter and flour melted over low heat.. Melt 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter or turkey fat(or other fat I love duck fat) in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, whisk in the flour to combine. The roux will become smooth and golden brown.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER for the perfect gravy
Once your roux is smooth, golden brown and smells slightly nutty, this is when it is ready for you to slowly pour in your turkey stock. I would add two cups with this amount of roux. You can create more roux and increase the stock. You'll want to simmer over low heat until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add other fresh herbs. For me, less is more. Let the flavors of the turkey, stuffing and other dishes elevate the meal, the gravy should be creamy and a smooth texture. If yours becomes clumpy you can push through a strainer.
If you are feeling extra decadent, you can always add a tbsp or two of heavy cream or half and half. After all, this is the holiday to take a nap after eating, right?
What do you do to make Thanksgiving special? Post a comment below or on my facebook feed!
It's November, and the holidays are just around the corner. You know what that means, and so do I! Parties, food, cocktails, festivities, cookies, pies, loads of creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, candy canes, cream filled casseroles, grandmas homemade treats, and the list goes on.
Don't worry, I am not here to tell you to avoid all of these things. I am not even here to tell you they are bad. I would like to equip you with information so you can feel ready to enjoy the festivities and the food without completely derailing your health goals.
1. Stick to the most colorful foods. This is a good general rule of thumb for any gathering at any time of year. Colorful foods are often the most healthFUL. Also, they tend to offer less extra calories in the form of fats, butters, and oils (not always, but sometimes). Focus on the vegetables dishes and make THEM fill out the majority of your plate. Seek out the brussels sprouts, the green beans, the cranberry relish, the crudite, the sweet potatoes (provided they aren’t swimming in marshmallows).
2. Avoid going carb crazy. Anything you can do to avoid overdosing on the starches that often pervade Holiday tables (potatoes, stuffing, breads, cookies) may be helpful to prevent carb comas. One doesn’t have to avoid favorite dishes completely, just being sure that there are plenty of nutrient dense options that make their way into your tummy first. One good rule of thumb, is to just serve yourself two thumbsize servings of a carbohydrate. You choose if that's stuffing or potatoes or a little of both, but make sure it totals about two thumb sizes.
3. Plenty of protein. Pairing protein with carbs is essential to avoid blood sugar rollercoasters during the Holiday season. If you aren’t vegetarian/vegan, then Turkey without a ton of skin can be a healthy option. (I’m a fan of humanely raised and organic turkey, whenever possible) You don’t need much more than 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards). That will provide 20-28 grams of protein which is plenty. You can flavor it up by adding a dash of those sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce. Seek out vegetarian protein options as well: beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. You can even be the one to bring a healthier - legume side dish with added veggies.
4. Dessert in moderation. Believe me those pies are not worth an extra 5 pounds around your waistline come January, and believe me that is exactly where it will go. The high sugar content of holiday treats is a hormone tragedy and those calories are destined to find their way to storage places around your organs (the worst place to send them). Here are my dessert tips. Serve yourself a bite or two of your most favorite choices. Eat them slowly, and don't return for seconds. I promise it won't kill you to have a bite and not go back. When in doubt go for the Pumpkin Pie. While it may technically be a “sweet”, pumpkin puree is rich in fiber and Vitamin A and is likely one of the healthier choices on the dessert table.
5. Do a holiday makeover. I’m a big proponent of creating healthy versions of the foods we love.. Try baking cookies with high fiber flour, oats, maple syrup , nuts etc, Create egg nog with coconut milk, honey, nut meg; Make gravy using chickpeas or cashews for creaminess. Try cutting the amount of fat in recipes and taste them before adding all the butter that is suggested. Google is a great holiday tool, just search terms like: "healthier pumpkin pie" or "bean casserole without the cream". We don’t have to cut out these foods, we can simply make some wonderfully flavorful and healthy versions of them.
6. Location, location, location. Don't hang out right next to the food table. This will help you avoid making multiple stops at your favorite thing on the table. Fill your plate and go eat somewhere and return only if you absolutely can't live without an additional bite of something.
7. Be mindful of meal times. If you are going to a party at 7 pm, don't eat a huge meal right before. Same thing, if you go to a potluck at 3 pm towards the end of your work day, avoid a large lunch or a large dinner. Try to spread those extra calories and budget them from your normal meal times.
8. Don't overdo the alcohol. Wine, beer, cocktails, hot buttered rum... need I go on? Just be careful, sip slowly, choose an occasion or two you will drink at rather than choosing to drink at each event. These calories are some of the quickest that will add on the pounds during the holidays. If you know you'll be headed to a few more than usual outings where you'll be having a drink, then choose to skip the glass of wine at dinner when it's just you and the family.
9. Control what you can. You may not be able to control what is served for you at parties, but you can control the dinner table at home. When it is within your power to control the food options, choose healthy, vegetable rich meals so you can give yourself some license when it is time to enjoy the festivities with others.
Above all, eat mindfully and savor the food no matter what it is. When we eat with guilt and mindlessness, we tend to eat more and it becomes a much less pleasurable experience. It’s possible to enjoy the holiday season without making food the enemy and feeling bad about our choices. Keep up the color, scale back the portions, eat with intention and joy.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
218 W. Carmen Lane, Suite 108
Santa Maria, California 93458
Hours: Mon-Fri 9-5 PST