my Thanksgiving advice to you…

I think today marks the official first day of the 2015 holiday season right? Everyone is gearing up for Thanksgiving, many are traveling and many people will be going out tonight- they say it’s the biggest drinking day of the year… then the day after Thanksgiving we are bombarded with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday music, tree lightings, holiday parties and the works! Anyways, the holidays are here which means plenty of fun activities, food, friends, family and all that good stuff- I’m excited. I love the holidays, but I know this can be a stressful time for many people for a variety of reasons.

My biggest piece of advice for tomorrow, and the holidays is- if you should take one thing off your plate of holiday anxiety, have that be food. Food is meant to bring people together and to be a positive and fun experience- it makes me nuts that the media bombards us with crazy ideas like suggesting I wear a tight dress on Thanksgiving so I can’t be comfortable when I sit down to eat, or to pass on my mom’s amazing stuffing because it’s high-cal… SAY WHAT?! Last I checked I’m not at Golden Globes so the need to look perfect in a dress when I sit down in non-existent, and I only eat stuffing one day a year, you better believe I’m not missing out on it!

Silly restrictive tips/strategies send the wrong message and put us in the mindset of viewing food as the enemy; that our self-worth is determined by if we nutritionally make the best choices at Thanksgiving dinner we are “good” or if we choose to eat higher calorie fatty sugary foods we are “bad”. Thanksgiving is ONE DAY, and should be treated as such. Enjoy what you want during the meal, and move on. Each meal is a new opportunity to make new choices, and just because you may have over-eaten or eaten a ton of high-cal foods does not determine the next meal, the next day, or even the next week- or whether you are “good” or “bad”.

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I would even argue that the traditional Thanksgiving meal is one of the more healthy meals you could be consuming; turkey is a lean protein and usually there are a variety of vegetables in various forms. In general much of the food is baked, steamed or sauteed versus highly processed or deep-fried fare. When we run into “trouble” on Thanksgiving it usually has to do with the sheer volume of food eaten…

Louis CK_Meal is Over when I hate myself1I find this so funny because we all relate to Louis CK right?! Try not to let this be you tomorrow, eating until you’re uncomfortable is never a fun feeling. Be mindful, and read my tips below for enjoying your Thanksgiving day meal without worry or regret.

  • Don’t starve yourself or “save” all your calories for the one meal. This one is huge; I promise you, you’re not doing any favors by starving yourself until the main event. First, if you haven’t eaten all day your body is in energy conservation mode; it will want to hold onto the calories you consume because it’s afraid you’re going to go without food again for another extended period of time. In addition you’ll be less likely to listen to your hunger cues and less likely to taste, savor and enjoy the food because you’ll be acting as a vacuum cleaner. I like to eat high-quality, nutrient rich foods to start my day when I know I’ll be eating less-healthy choices later on. Start your day off with eggs and veggies, Greek yogurt, fruit and nuts, etc. for a satisfying and healthy kick start.
  • Eat everything you want. Yeah you read that right. Take a look at the spread and try each thing you want- especially seasonal/holiday dishes you only get once a year. That being said if one dish is just “ehh” or there is something you don’t like or eat all the time don’t waste your cals and stomach space. Eat and enjoy the foods you like. Watch your portions, if you’re still hungry you can always go back for more later on. And hey, sometimes a day of indulgence resets your body and mind and you’re ready to get back on the sensible-choice wagon the next day.
  • As always, be smart about your beverage choices. Enjoy a specialty holiday drink or a few alcoholic beverages if you are so inclined, but as always- lay off the soda and sugary juices- they’re sugar AKA empty calories! Be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water, seltzer and tea.
  • Move that bod- get in some sort of exercise. Go to a local 5K Turkey Trot, a workout class or find a YouTube workout in the morning to get those endorphins flowing for the day. Bundle up and take a walk with your friends or family, heck, go for a solo run or walk if you need some alone time! This isn’t necessarily about the calorie burn but more about the mental state the physical activity will leave you in- you’ll feel better about yourself and fresh air is super nice, especially if you’re spending your day in a busy house with lots of people and ovens and stoves on. Hungover from a wild Wednesday night with high school friends? I swear a leisurely walk in fresh air is going to make you feel at least a little better- hydrate too- fizzy seltzer is your BFF.
  • Make the day about more than just the food. As corny as it is to say, enjoy the day off from work and the friends and/or family you are surrounded by. Watch football, play a board game with your friends or family, help clean up the kitchen for whoever is the host, go for a walk in between dinner and dessert. Be thankful- if the worst thing you have to worry about is eating too much at dinner realize how lucky you are that that’s your worry in a world where so many other people have much bigger and real problems.
  • Remember it’s just ONE day. One day of stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, apple pie, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, etc. is NOT going to ruin your health or diet. Yes, I know leftovers can be an issue. If you’re worried about your Thanksgiving meal happening every day for the week following Thanksgiving day, then choose what you take home/what you keep wisely. Turkey is a lean, high protein meat that you can use in sandwiches, salads or soups. Eat the roasted vegetables as they are, or throw those in a salad, omelet or quinoa bowl. For the less-nutritious, high-calorie items, divvy those things up among your guests to take home and/or feel free to enjoy those foods in the following days but in moderation. You can have a day of sensible eating and exercise and still have a piece of pie at night!

These tips can apply to any special occasion or holiday. I hope you allow yourself to enjoy Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season without guilt… have a great day tomorrow!

…and if you’re interested in what I’m up to follow me on Instagram @healthywithhannahRD

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giving Pomegranates some love

Today I want to give a little bit of love to an overlooked fruit- the pomegranate! Since the season they are harvested is upon us, and will be until about February, it makes sense to give a pomegranate a try this season. I tend to eat them by the handful on their own, but they are so versatile and work well as a topping for salads, oatmeal, yogurt, or even in your favorite cocktails- champagne and pomegranate arils? Yes please.

pomegranateI will confess- I only started eating pomegranates a couple of years ago; I wasn’t familiar with them and deemed them too high-maintenance for the tiny little seeds that seemed rather insignificant. Granted, I had never eaten the wonderfully sweet-tart crunchy little seeds (called arils) that pop in your mouth and provide a delicious flavor and texture; once I tried them, I was hooked. But then came the real “problem”- how to cut it open and remove those hundreds of arils from flesh on the inside? It just seemed like too much work, until I figured out the perfect process… it does require a bit more effort, than say, cutting an apple, but the little bit effort yields a great reward.

Let’s get to why you should even eat these pretty little arils in the first place. Pomegranates have been deemed a “super food” and contain antioxidants, polyphenols, potassium and fiber. These attributes allow them to aid in digestion, strengthening the immune system, and aid in reducing inflammation which is the root cause of many illnesses including cancer and arthritis; they have even been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. I don’t like giving any one food a complete health-halo, but adding pomegranates, along with other nutrient-rich foods to your diet will surely improve your health and hopefully keep that immune system of yours strong, especially in these upcoming winter months.

So, now that I’ve (hopefully!) convinced you to try a pomegranate onto how to open this thing. My approach is to do all the work up front and then to enjoy the fruits of your labor (literally)… also this is the best way to avoid a mess staining your hands, clothes, kitchen walls, etc.

You’ll need:
-a sharp knife
-a sink- with a large bowl of cold water
-an apron, a dark colored shirt, or old t-shirt — basically not your nicest wool or cashmere sweater as pomegranate juice can stain
-a mesh colander (*optional but recommended)
-a bowl/Tupperware to store them in

How to cut and de-seed:
1. Score (partially cut) the skin of the pomegranate the entire circumference of the fruit- you can cut all the way through if you’d like but this will pop some of the arils. For a visual:

Cutting all the way through will yield this

Cutting all the way through will yield this

Scoring and tearing apart will yield this (less mess, more saved arils!)

Scoring and tearing apart will yield this (less mess, more saved arils!)

2. Once scored, tear the pomegranate apart into 2 pieces

3. Take 1 of the 2 chunks of pomegranate and submerge under the cool water in your bowl that’s sitting in the sink. Carefully begin tearing apart the rind, freeing the arils from the rind and the skin inside. Basically just pick the arils free of the flesh. Allow the arils to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Throw away the rind and white flesh on the inside. Repeat with the 2nd half.
*note: the reason you’re doing this in water is to prevent the pomegranate juice from spraying everywhere and making a mess- you can choose to do this on your kitchen counter but you and your kitchen may end up looking like a crime scene. The flesh on the inside also tends to float to the top of the bowl of water making it easier to skim away.

4. Now that you have the arils free, skim the remaining flesh off the top of the water and pour the bowl into a colander to get rid of the access water. Pick any other bits of flesh out that may have been left behind.

5. You’re done- enjoy nature’s version of a sweet-tart! Eat on their own or put on a salad, in yogurt, a smoothie, oatmeal or a cocktail.

6. To store, transfer to a bowl or a Tupperware container and store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.