5 Tips for Welcoming Herbivores to the Holiday Feast

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

From vegetarians to vegans and pescatarians to gluten allergies, throwing a holiday feast can be quite challenging. If you are planning to host a dinner party this holiday season, rest assured, entertaining guests with multiple food sensitivities does not mean you need to toss out traditional or favorite Holiday foods. With a few modifications, many foods can be easily modified.  What should you do when welcoming herbivores to your holiday feast? We’re dishing out 5 tips you need to do and know before you start cooking this holiday season.

1. Confirm Your Guests’ Dietary Restrictions – First things first, before you start purchasing any ingredients find our what type of food preferences your guests have and if they have any allergies. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same food preferences. Some people will eat dairy but not eggs and vice versa. Knowing your guests’ food styles won’t just help you plan out what dishes you can serve, but it will ensure there is something at the table for everyone.

2. Always Serve A Main Vegetarian Dish – If you pass on confirming your guests’ dietary preferences, steer on the safe side by preparing a main vegetarian dish. This way, anyone who passes up the turkey or other main meat dish will still have something just as delicious and satiating as the latter. For large crowds, a dish like vegetarian lasagna can be appetizing for both non-meat and meat eaters alike.

3.  Make Your Side Dishes Veggie-Friendly – Make sure there are side dishes that everyone can enjoy. While you don’t have to dish out a whole chicken, turkey fish or tofurkey to meet all of your guests’ dietary preferences, side dishes are where you can make something suitable for everyone’s palates and preferences. To do this, keep an open mind by serving dishes other than a simple salad. Some side dishes can include sliced fresh fruits, cheeses, crackers, bruschetta, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, potato salad, roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, lentils, latkes, corn on the cob, cornbread, stuffed mushrooms, quinoa salad, garlicky kale or spinach.

4. Encourage Your Guests to Bring a Dish – After you letting your guests know in advance that you will be preparing vegetarian/vegan dishes, offer to let them bring a couple of dishes that they enjoy too. If you feel like you’re scrambling to find enough vegetarian/vegan dishes, allow your guests to bring dishes to share with everyone.

5. Prepare Two Dessert Options – When dishing out dessert, consider eggs and dairy products. If possible, it’s best to prepare one non-dairy dessert option. If you plan to make the dessert yourself, there are a ton of substitutions on the market that add flavor and moisture to your baked goods. For egg substitutes, you can try applesauce, chia seeds in gel form, or EnerG Egg Replacer, which can be found at a health foods store or Whole Foods Market. To substitute cow’s milk, you can use soy, almond or hemp milk and vegetable margarine in many baked goods. For those who are new to creating sweet concoctions without dairy and eggs, know that it is possible to serve a scrumptious vegan dessert!

 

Have you ever hosted a vegetarian or vegan dinner? What tips would you give to new hosts?

Entertain the Concept of Health this Holiday Season

Photo Credit: ecstaticist via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ecstaticist via Compfight cc

Tis the season of food, food and food. So how do we manage our health while entertaining and celebrating?  Instead of fearing weight gain or trying for weight loss during the holidays, let yourself maintain your current weight. Think slow and steady wins the race. However this is not a race rather an almost 2 month period of eating and drinking.  This year, vow to make the holiday season healthy with family and friends as the focus and these tips to plan a mindful season balanced between food and fitness.

5 Tips Celebrate Health and Holidays

  1. Focus on Family and Friends – Growing up in an Italian family I remember the holidays were about food and family. Instead of making food for 25 people, we made enough for 50 people. Instead of sitting around the fire, we sat around the table. If this was your family, start a new tradition this year. Celebrate you health and the holiday season by focusing on family and friends not food. Have family and friends come over to socialize rather than eat. You can serve food, but don’t center the evening on/around the food and the act of eating all of it.
  2. Plan Fitness – With limited time, shopping exhaustion and colder weather, our fitness routines get displaced. Since moving increases your energy, your mood and your metabolism, this is the last thing you want to give up over the holiday season. Instead, make dates with friends to go yoga together rather than getting drinks. Schedule spin class or any classes that you have to pay for if you miss. This is a great incentive to make sure you attend class.
  3. Make a date. Use you daily planner or PDA to schedule all activities, whether it is food shopping, meal prep, exercise or therapy. If it gets scheduled just like any important meeting, you will set the precedent to ensure this activity gets done.
  4. Slow down and Savor – Being a foodie, I know how hard it is not to celebrate with food. However, you can change your mindset of that of your guests too by hosting smaller more intimate holiday parties. Create small intense flavorful meals. Start the meal off with a prayer, a toast or even a moment of silence to allow you and your guests to refocus, create inner calm, and engage in mindful eating.
  5. Use Your Five Senses: Rather than race through your holiday meal and overeat, be sure to use all 5 senses while eating. Smell your food and think about memories the aroma may conjure up. Touch your food; Is your bread hot and crusty or naturally rough with seeds and nuts? Think about the texture and how it makes you feel. Really look at the plate. Is the food presented beautifully? Are there multiple colors on your plate, there should be. Listen to the food, yes listen to see if the turkey’s skin is crispy or the biscotti crunchy. And finally taste your meal!! Many people eat an entire meal and Can never tell you what it really tasted like. They were too busy talking, or shoveling the food in so they could either leave the dinner table or get seconds. This holiday season, be healthy mentally and physically by truly tasting your food and appreciating each bite. A small amount of food tasted will fulfill you more than a few plates of food you never tasted would.

 

 

The Art of the Bliss Point

The Art of the Bliss Point
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

 

Beware of the bliss point this holiday season!! The term “Bliss Point” made headlines earlier this year when author Michael Moss’ book, “Salt, Sugar, Fat” was published. Bliss point, a term often used by the soft-drink industry represents the food manufacturers’ use of sugar, salt, and fat to increase taste and ultimately, the cravings of consumers. It is a specific term coined to represent the “specific amount of crave” which is smack in the middle of the sensory intensity (level)1.

 

Remember when Oreos were all over the news last month? A study performed by Connecticut College found that eating Oreos stimulate the same sensation in the brains of lab mice as drugs do, suggesting that Oreos may possibly be as addictive as drugs. “Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” says Joseph Schroeder, the director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at Connecticut College2. “It could explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”2 While the study is yet to be officially published and undergo the peer-review process, it is likely that the Oreos caused the mice to reach something like their bliss point. It is important to recognize that this does not mean the food itself is addictive (check back soon for a post on food addiction).  If foods are eaten in combination with other foods especially proteins, the sensory experience of the food would be different and, therefore, not at the optimal bliss point.

 

Keep in mind, the food manufacturers are trying to achieve bliss point so the consumers continually buy and eat their products. This is a marketing ploy.  The University of Indiana highlights the Bliss Point on their website, stating that the bliss point is the combination of “just the right amount of sugar, salt, and fat”. They report the food industry attempts to prepare all foods with at least 2 combinations of the earlier mentioned nutrients3. In fact, Moss says there are some foods on the market today that cause our bodies to feel hungry even as we’re eating them1.

 

Take an example by Moss, from his article in the NY Times, just a half-cup serving of a popular marinara sauce brand has more than 2 teaspoons of sugar (that’s more than two oreos worth of sugar). Moss states, however, that having too much of one sensation (ie sweetness, fat, or salt) can actually be off-putting to the consumer. It is a term called “sensory-specific satiety,” in which more distinctive flavors overwhelm the brain, therefore reducing the desire to eat more. Thus, not only do brands look for the perfect mixture of tastes, but they also measure them accordingly to ensure that they don’t reach the “sensory-specific satiety”1.

Photo Credit: Wayan Vota via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Wayan Vota via Compfight cc

Can you think about a certain food like a potato chip or even an Oreo that has hit upon your bliss point? I can remember eating Pringles and one was just never enough. Even now, when I eat Oreos, having one is extremely rare. Rather I try to have Oreos with my lunch, or with milk or immediately after eating dinner to so that I get full from the other foods and also to prevent a blood sugar rollercoaster.

 

So what can we do, as consumers? As parents? We live in a busy world where too often convenience trumps nutrition. Despite having good intentions to eat locally sourced foods, time and lack of energy cause us to fall prey to packaged goods. It is truly a balancing act. Most important is that the consumer realizes this is happening and can make an educated decision regarding which brands to purchase, how often to eat packaged foods and to realize the body is not betraying you rather the big food companies may be!

 

Do you think food companies should be allowed to manufacture foods that achieve bliss point? Do you think overeating of these specific foods is the fault of the big food companies or the individual?

 

What food hits your bliss point?

 

Additional Reading: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21568064-food-companies-play-ambivalent-part-fight-against-flab-food-thought

Additional Viewing: http://www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/

 

 

References:

  1. Moss, Michael. “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” New York Times [New York City] 20 Feb 2013, Magazine n. pag. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?_r=0>.
  2. Martin, Amy, and Deborah MacDonnell. “Connecticut College News.” Connecticut College News. Connecticut College, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
  3. “The Bliss Point.” The Bliss Point. Indiana University, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

How to Feed a Fast!

By Erin Potasnick, Nutrition Student at Yeshiva University and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Most people have heard of the term “fasting” before. And while we don’t encourage fasting for any reason other than religious holidays, like Tisha B’Av or Ramadan, we’ve come up with 7 Simple Pre- and Post-Fasting Tips to help you get through the process:

1.  Schedule accordingly! – If you’re fasting for a religious holiday, many health care professionals encourage you to adjust your medications to the appropriate fasting times.water glass

2.  Stay hydrated ahead of time! – Hydration is critical when fasting, especially when some religious fasts call for no liquids. Therefore, be sure to consume roughly 8-10 glasses (~64 ounces) of water in the days approaching your fast. It is vital for pregnant women to drink plenty of fluids during the designated times of their fast[1], making sure to have water at their side at all times.

3.  Eat a balanced meal pre-fast – Be sure to include complex carbohydrates, protein, and fats. This should allow you to begin your fast feeling neither hungry, nor full, but content.

4.  Rest and take time for yourself! – What better time to take a mid-afternoon nap than during a fast? Not only will this keep your mind off the impending hunger, but it will also allow you to wake feeling refreshed and re-energized. On Yom Kippur, those in observance fast to ask God for forgiveness, making the fasting period a great time to reflect and gain insight.

5.  Hydrate after fasting – When you break the fast, chose hydrating foods, like fruits, vegetables, and soups. It is important to rehydrate and take care of your digestive system post-fast. We encourage drinking herbal teas, like peppermint tea, with traditional post-fast meals, to help ease your digestion. We also suggest you to take a break, go for a walk, and think mindfully when eating to avoid eating in a binge-like manner and any stomach discomfort.

peppermint tea6.  Stay true to your fast – stick with a buddy! Traditionally families fast together when observing Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. Sometimes having a partner or group of supporters can really help you stay motivated and stick to your plan!

7.  Be safe! – If you are sick or pregnant, you may want to meet with your healthcare provider to make sure that fasting is appropriate for you at the time.

 

How do you prepare and stay on track while fasting? Have any tips or tricks? Stay safe and enjoy!


[1] Pathy R, Mills K, Gazeley S, Ridgley A, Kiran T. Health is a spiritual thing: perspectives of health care professionals and female Somali and Bangladeshi women on the health impacts of fasting during Ramadan. Ethnicity & Health [serial online]. February 2011;16(1):43-56. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 8, 2013.