Building a Healthy Holiday Plate
The holiday season is coming up and that means a number of feasts and festivities with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and more! For many of us, these special occasions are a source of joy and reunion, but they can also present an easy opportunity for us to slip away from our healthy habits.
When sitting down at the dinner table or moving through the buffet line try and keep in mind the following tips. Knowing how to build a healthy plate will keep you on track over the holiday months.
Make ½ your plate fruits and vegetables
There just isn’t enough praise we can say about fruits and vegetables. They are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals! Fruits and vegetables are healthy carbohydrates, low in calories, but provide the essential energy we need.
Fruits and vegetables do not have to be bland and dull. Get creative with spices such as cinnamon on baked apple slices or sautéed vegetable kabobs!
Focus on whole fruits
Not everything labeled as “fruit” is equally healthy. Many juice beverages and canned fruits are loaded with added sugar and low in nutritional value. Avoid any fruit product that contains artificial properties and added sugar, these are more like desserts.
Fresh, frozen and canned fruits can all be an acceptable form to consume, but they should be in 100% fruit juice with no added sugar. Stick to all-natural options and snack away!
Vary your vegetables and choose non-starchy options
Vegetables can be divided into high- and low-carbohydrate groups, and it is important to have a mix of vegetables high and low in carbohydrates. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, corn and carrots. These can all be healthy foods, but are more caloric and do not give us all of our nutrients. Make sure to eat green beans, leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. These vegetables are low in carbohydrates and rich in vital nutrients.
How vegetables and starches are prepared is all important. A baked potato loaded with sour cream, bacon and melted cheese is not as healthy as say a sweet potato. Likewise, string beens, mushrooms, carrots and peppers fried in sauce and oil will not be as healthy as a steamed or baked option.
Eat Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, quinoa, whole rye, and popcorn are full of fiber and b-vitamins. Our body relies on these this type of grain as a source of fuel and is optimal for our systems to process.
Refined grains are white flour products like breads, cookies, cakes, white rice and white pasta and they should be kept to an absolute minimum. They are dense in calories and will not satiate the body, leading to potential overeating. As an occasional treat or dessert they are fine, but should be the exception to the rule when building your plate.
Choose low-fat dairy products
Dairy products sometimes get a bad rep and are branded as unhealthy. While this can be the case, it is certainly not true for all dairy products. Low-fat dairy products like greek yogurt, milk, cheese and dairy alternatives (almond/soy/nut milks and yogurts) are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats and probiotics. Dairy is absolutely fine, just be sure to choose low-fat, fat-free options, and no-sugar/low-sugar varieties when available.
Pick lean proteins
Protein is delicious and an important staple in our diets. Protein consists more than just meat so people with vegetarian or vegan restrictions should still be making an effort to consuming enough lean protein throughout the day. Lean proteins that we recommend include skim milk, low fat cheese, white fish such as cod or haddock, chicken or turkey breast, tune, and low-fat ground turkey or beef. Making a point to eat enough protein at every meal will have you feeling full through the day to avoid any mindless grazing or snacking.
Now that we know what to look for let’s put together a healthy meal we could potentially model our Thanksgiving plate around:
3oz sliced turkey breast
¼ cup mashed potatoes
¼ cup green beans
½ cup baked apples with oat crumble with low-fat/low-sugar vanilla yogurt
1 small whole grain roll
Here we have touched upon all of the tips above and given our plate a healthy and balanced mix of food groups. From our family at Roger Williams to yours, we wish you a happy, and healthy, holiday season!