Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

The best way to enter the holiday season…

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  The holidays bring all kinds of gifts, some more challenging than others. In addition to all that family time, one of the major hurdles of this season is the temptation to eat more volume and higher calorie food than we do the rest of the year.
Over the next month or so, we’ll attend many parties focused on consumption of enticing food and drinks. I have a few tricks for how we can deal with all the rich and wonderful smells and flavors that surround us.
  1.  Never go to a party too hungry- even if it sounds counterintuitive, you’ll eat more if you haven’t eaten enough yet that day. So, try to balance your eating throughout the day. Then you can have small portions of just about everything at the party, but at least you are eating small! small amounts!
  2.  Plan ahead how many appetizers and alcoholic drinks you’ll have- if you intentionally set a number (best bet is no more than 2) – I’m much more likely to stick to the commitment I made to myself.
  3.  Sample everything, but take small portion choose  of your top 3 choices.  . To help your discipline,  picture how you’ll feel afterwards if you eat too much.
  4.  Deliberately drop a couple of pounds before thanksgiving and other holidays when you know food will take center stage. Try eating mostly salads, fish and other lean protein, along with orange, red and green vegetables, eggs, and 2-3 servings of fruit a day. I rarely eat rice, potatoes, pasta, but I may have 1 slice of bread a day. Before the holiday, I stop eating all starches, bread and any other simple carbs that find their way into my kitchen or under my nose. Drink huge amounts of water and ice tea to make sure you don’t mistake hunger for thirst, and to keep yourself feeling more full.
  5. Bring roasted vegetables or a big salad to any pot luck event. This years’s family Thanksgiving in New Jersey will include 43 people. (Thank God I’m not hosting!) Here’s what I’m bringing:

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Some combination of the following: carrots, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, purple or vidalia onion, eggplant, beets, brussels      sprouts, mushrooms, sweet potato, yellow squash, green beans.


But, my most powerful secret weapon to lose weight before the holidays- is ……….drumroll…………Soups!

Here’s a minestrone recipe, one of my “secret weapons”, compliments of my husband, Jeff.

There are NO amounts for some of the following items- you can put in however much you like- it’s very liberating!

Start with a Soffrito,  which is a simple base that can be used for all kinds of Italian dishes. The ingredients are: chopped garlic, carrots, onions and celery, which you saute in olive oil in the bottom of the pot. Throw in salt, pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage or any combination of the above . Add 2 boxes (32 oz) low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, 1 can of cannelini beans, 1 can of chick peas, a couple of medium zucchinis , chopped.  Add any green- kale, chard, collards, spinach. Also add either one half cup of grated parmesan or romano cheese or its rind, a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. You can throw in ANY veggie in the fridge- green veggie, cauliflower- whatever’s left from the week. Or, if you prefer to have exact amounts of ingredients, check out this recipe for minestrone- both will weigh in at only 130 calories per cup and is very filling and protein rich.

Minestrone soup:
Butternut Squash Soup
                                                                    1/4 cup butter (you can substitute olive oil)

  1  onion, choppedimages-6
1  carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/3 cups buttermilk (use low-fat or fat-free if desired or no fat greek yogurt     but you may need to thin the soup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, melt butter. Stir in onion, carrot and celery. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in squash and ground cumin. Cook and stir for 5 minutes more. Add the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, covered for 8-10 minutes, until vegetables are very tender. Allow to cool slightly and puree in small batches until smooth. Return to the soup to the saucepan and stir in buttermilk, salt and pepper.

Options: olive oil instead of butter, low fat or fat free buttermilk, no fat yogurt instead of buttermilk, but may need to thin the soup,

Optional toppings: dollop of creme fraiche or greek yogurt, chopped scallions, thinly sliced blood oranges and toasted cumin seeds (using half the ground cumin)

Calorie count- about 100-130 calories per cup with the lower fat ingredients.

This recipe comes compliments of Kim Sprunck- thanks Kim!

Last, but not least, check out this Greek lentil soup recipe, which is bursting with nutrition- protein, carbs, green leafy veggies, all in one bowl.






Go to for the ingredients. I would leave out the pasta, because there’s plenty of flavor and heartiness already, and the shells don’t add much flavor, just calories. This soup is about 150-200 calories a cup, without the pasta.

So, with a little bit of thought, preparation and intention, you can enjoy your parties and celebrations without gaining that holiday weight . Good luck and feel free to share any of your favorite (and preferably low-cal)  recipes and success stories! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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