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The holidays are meant for celebrating and we often associate poor diet choices with decadent desserts or heavy appetizers, which typically make appearances at holiday parties.  However, just as damaging are seemingly innocent holiday spirits, those festive beverages that are so easy to consume, yet can pack on the pounds.  The problem is that many of these drinks have either a high sugar content, or in some cases, high fat and sugar content.  Couple that with added alcohol and you’ve got yourself a diet disaster.  On top of that issue, they do nothing to make you feel “full,” so you’re still going to consume added calories of food on top of the ones you’ve just drank.

The good news is if you’re hosting your own holiday party you can still serve holiday beverages and keep them both festive and healthy.   I’ve pulled together some recipes to try this season.

Cranberry Apple Cider uses your slow cooker and four ingredients for this hot, holiday drink.  Fresh cranberries, whole cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and 100% apple juice–that’s it!  You serve this warm, straight out of the slow cooker and what’s even better is that the kids can enjoy it too.

cranberry-apple-cider
Photo Courtesy of $5 Dinners

Traditional Egg Nog is delicious, but it’s loaded with fat and calories.  To the rescue is Pumpkin Nog –this version is all natural and uses pumpkin puree, raw cashews and a mix of maple syrup and spices.  Not only does it omit the fat content, but you also benefit from the pumpkin (they are an excellent source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C).

Pumpkin Nog
Photo Courtesy of The Green Forks

Cranberry Orange Spritzer is perfect for holiday parties.  Champagne, cranberry juice (this recipe calls for a diet version), 2 tablespoons orange juice and club soda are combined and then topped with fresh cranberries and orange slices.  The drink is both tasty and festive looking without being heavy.  You can make this without alcohol if you choose.

Cranberry-Orange-Spritzer
Photo Courtesy of Peanut Butter and Peppers

What would a holiday party be without punch?  This Sparkling New Year’s Eve Punch uses 100% pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds, fresh mint leaves, sparkling water, fresh limes and rum or mint flavored vodka (optional).

pomegranate punch
Photo Courtesy of Nature Box

I hope you enjoy these healthier beverage options this holiday season and have a happy holiday with your family and friends!

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You’ve probably heard the term “clean eating” in a fitness or fashion magazine.  There are some celebrities who swear by this diet method.  So, exactly what does it mean?  Simply put, clean eating is consuming more whole foods (real foods) and avoiding those foods that are ultra processed (think items like toaster pastries and ready-to-eat items).  The idea is to eat foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, this naturally omits any added sodium, sugar and fat from your diet.  In addition, over processed foods tends to strip the food of its natural fiber content and many times it loses valuable nutrients your body needs.

 

Does this mean you have to follow a new and complicated diet ritual to get the benefits that come with a “clean eating” mindset?  Not at all!  When you look at the basics behind some of the existing healthy lifestyle approaches, you’re already taking a step in the right direction.  Fruit and vegetables are a major part of clean eating.  Making them a focus of your meals will ensure you’re adding whole foods to each dining experience.  Here are a few other ways to “eat clean”:

 
  • Choose an abundance of fresh or frozen fruit and veggies
  • Opt for unrefined grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, steel-cut oatmeal and popcorn
  • Choose dried beans and nuts
  • Buy unprocessed meat and choose pastured over grain-fed.
  • Opt for farm fresh eggs
  • Look for labels that have as few ingredients as possible
  • Cook your own meals rather than buying ready-to-cook options
  • When cooking, opt for flash cook methods like stir-frying or steaming for veggies
 

I found a couple of recipes that qualify as “clean eating,” but remember that it’s easy to simply incorporate fruit and veggies as half your plate (follow the MyPlate guidelines) and you’ll do just fine.  This recipe for Roasted Shrimp and Green Beans is fairly simple–using only the main ingredients and spices for flavor.

 

Shrimp-and-Beans
Photo courtesy of Clean and Delicious

 

Stuffed Bell Peppers are a great dinner option for busy weeknights.  This version uses ground turkey and salsa for the sauce, giving it a Mexican flare.

 

stuffed peppers

 

I’ll be back next week with some festive beverage options for your holidays.  Enjoy!

 

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December is National Pear Month and there is no better time to enjoy this delicious fruit. Fall and winter are the seasons that pears are at their peak flavor (and best price!), so scoop up some some savings and great taste the next time you visit your supermarket.  While most of us are very familiar with the common signature Bartlett pear–noted for its green/yellow appearance and juicy flavor (great for snacking!), there are a few other pear varieties in season right now, which are just as delicious.

 

pears
Photo courtesy of USAPears

 
  • Green Anjou – An all-purpose pear that makes it ideal for snacking, baking or adding to salads.  The color of this pear remains green while ripening so check the neck of the pear to see when it’s ready.
  • Red Anjou – Red Anjour pears have similar textures to Green Anjou pears and can be used the same way.  Their color adds a “pop” to salads or desserts.
  • Red Bartlett – Similar to their green counterpart, the Red Bartlett is sweet, juicy and perfect for snacking.  These pears turn a bright red as they ripen.
  • Bosc - Bosc pears can be easily identified by their long, tapered necks and brownish skin.  These pears are terrific for both eating as well as cooking.
  • Comice – Comice pears have a full shape and short neck.  They are most often green and can have some red spots.  They have a mellow sweetness that makes them ideal for pairing with cheese.
  • Concorde – Concorde pears are known for their long necks and firm, dense flesh.  The skin is golden green and holds up well in cooking.  This pear is also good for snacking.
 

 Aside from the flavor of this fruit, pears are a great source of dietary fiber, as well as a good source of Vitamin C–even more reason to add them to your daily diet!  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has put together their Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Pears.  From poaching to chutney …there’s something you’ll find on this list you’ll be sure to love.  I went digging myself and found a few recipes that feature pears that were different than the usual cobbler/muffin spin, I thought I’d share.

 

This Pear, Pomegranate and Spinach Salad is perfect for your holiday table.  Just look at those colors, not to mention the healthy ingredients!  Baby spinach, sliced pears, dried cranberries, pomegranate, chopped walnuts and feta cheese make up this savory salad.  A homemade dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and dijon mustard finish this off.

 

pear salad
Photo courtesy of Cooking Classy

 

Check out this Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Artisan Pizza .  I love that it uses a whole wheat crust (there is a link for the crust recipe as well). Fresh mozzarella, sliced pears, onions, chopped walnuts and a bit of arugula make this a simple, but flavorful topping.

 

Pear pizza
Photo courtesy of 2 Teaspoons

 

Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with a look at one of the latest buzzwords …exactly what is “clean eating?”

 

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One of the great things about preparing those massive holiday meals is having lots of leftovers to enjoy afterward.  However, after the third turkey sandwich you might be looking for something a bit more exciting for your taste buds.  This holiday season, I’ve got some ideas for using your leftovers in creative ways that will have your family thinking you’ve started from scratch.  Better yet, these recipes are also good for you!

 

One of the best things my mom always did with the leftover turkey carcass was make soup.  Of course you’ll want to leave some meat on it and add in your favorite veggies like carrots, onion and celery.  This is a classic recipe just like my mom’s that starts with a leftover turkey carcass.  Add veggies, egg noodles and herbs for flavor.  This soup is perfect for chilly days and can be enjoyed right away or frozen for future use.

 

turkey soup
Photo courtesy of Simply Recipes

 

A terrific recipe for leftover turkey is this one for Turkey Enchiladas.  This recipe uses lots of flavors (salsa verde, red onion and cilantro) and the addition of Great Northern beans boosts the fiber and protein content of the dish.

 

 

Turkey enchiladas
Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

 

If you have lots of leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes here is an interesting recipe I discovered–just go easy on this one as it has more calories and fat than I’d usually recommend.  I’d save these for a decadent appetizer.  They are Mashed Potato and Stuffing Patties and they combine both side dishes along with a bit of leftover turkey.  Finely chopped onion is added to the mixture and then they are lightly fried (much like a potato pancake).

 

 

mashed potato stuffing pockets
Photo courtesy of Pocket Change Gourmet

 

 Finally, if you want to stick with the turkey sandwich, here are two ideas to keep it interesting …first, try this Apple Cranberry Turkey Salad for a different twist.  It’s got diced apple, dried cranberry, chopped pecans and diced celery–you’re sure to have a “crunch” in every bite!  This recipe suggest rolls, but I’d prefer a wrap, pita or whole grain bread.  This would also be delicious atop a bed of mixed greens.

 

Turkey salad

 

How about this Turkey Pesto Cranberry Melt?  This looks unbelievably delicious!  Sliced turkey, pesto, leftover fresh cranberry sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese on rustic bread make this a hearty sandwich.  Reduce the fat/calories by using a low-fat cheese option and use a whole grain bread.

 

Turkey pesto cranberry melt
Photo courtesy of The Hopeless Housewife

 

 I hope I’ve given you some ideas for your holiday leftovers than are outside the norm this year.  Check the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters recipes section for more healthy ideas.

 

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