Ask Jill
12.18.2018

Are There Healthy Holiday Eating Strategies?

Yes! In all the holiday cheer, there is still plenty of opportunity to celebrate festivities while still making healthy food choices.  Some traditional holiday meals are routinely healthy while others only need slight adaptations to make them an even better choice.  Plus, there are many foods which might not be as familiar, but which are seasonal and festive and good for you all at the same time.

Our colleagues at the American Heart Association are excellent sources of insights into healthy food choices, as what we eat has a direct connection to our heart health.  They point out that a traditional holiday entree, roasted turkey breast, is “lean and low in calories.” Another holiday favorite, sweet potatoes, “are nutrient dense, and, depending on how they are prepared, can be a healthy part of a holiday meal.”  They even give the powerful cooking insight that “with almost any food preparation, you can cut fat, sugar, and salt by about a third without anyone noticing.”  They give an example of the classic green bean casserole, offering a chance to “make it real exciting, different, tasty, and good.”  They recommend preparing “green beans with olive oil, herbs and a few roasted almonds. Skip the cream of mushroom soup mixture and onion ring topping.”  For stuffing, they suggest “substituting mushrooms or nuts for the meat” and for mashed potatoes, you can try “mashed turnips or mashed cauliflower” as a delicious healthy alternative. Simple changes like this can make real differences in the nutritional content of your holiday meal.

Here at NMC, our Chef Carrie Consentino and the Restaurant & Catering team are helping our staff and visitors do just that.  Last week, they treated all of us to an amazing meal in celebration of the holidays.  The creative menu allowed us to experiment with a Mediterranean themed meal.  In addition to pork loin and salmon, we enjoyed Moroccan Stew with garbanzo beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, kale and carrots; Antipasto with marinated mushrooms, sweet peppers, mozzarella, olives, sundried tomatoes, roasted shallots and garlic, salamis, pepperonis, prosciutto and sopressata; Lebanese Fattoush with greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, sumac, feta, toasted pita, parsley and mint; Spanakopita with phyllo dough, spinach, onions and feta cheese; Quinoa Tabbouleh with tri-colored quinoa, lemon, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, parsley and scallions; Egyptian Green Beans and Carrots with onions, garlic, tomato and cardamom simmered in vegetable broth; Turkish Rice Pilaf with rice, cumin, cardamom, pistachios, dates and apricots.  What an incredible meal and healthy, too! Staff and visitors had so much fun sampling new things and enjoying choices that may be healthier than more traditional choices.  We are fortunate to have this team’s creativity here at the hospital for both the food we serve to patients and the selections in our Courtyard Café. It’s amazing what they can do on a budget and within nutritional guidelines.

Here in the holiday season, make time for yourself.  Share the joy with those you care about. As you do, be a little adventurous with new healthy food choices. You may find delicious new traditions and find yourself feeling much better after the holidays!  All the best to you and yours this holiday season!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer