Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Part 2: Tips and recipes for eating well through holidays (including desserts) !

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Last week, I wrote about how to manage your approach to the holiday feasts and parties. This week, I’ll focus on how to approach going out to eat, and eating when you’re not in control of the menu. You may be fine if you’re home, and have prepared those healthy veggies to have them ready during the week. You may have access to your greek yogurt, salads, grilled chicken and fish. But, what if this time of year brings more meals out at restaurants, or at parties and opportunities to drink? Here are some simple strategies to keep you on track.

  • Order your food at restaurants based on what has the healthiest preparation- ask for broiled, baked, grilled, steamed or poached, instead of sauteed, fried or glazed options. If they’re not prepared that way, you can ask to have menu items modified to meet your needs.
  • Avoid butter or cream based sauces, opting for citrus or balsamic choices. Ask for the sauce or lower calorie dressing on the side, then you can control the amount needed for taste.
  • Go for the lean grass fed beef or veal, free range poultry and wild caught fish, instead of the duck, organ meats or fatty cuts of steak.
  • Choose fish whenever possible, especially white fish or fish high in omega three oils, such as salmon, bluefish, mackerel or sardines.
  • Opt out of having bread sit on the table while waiting for your main course, especially if you’re very hungry when will power is at its weakest.
  • If the portions are large, set aside half the meal to take home for another meal, then stop eating when the plate is half empty.
  • Opt for an appetizer instead of a full meal or split an entree if you know portions are large.
  • Drink plenty of water beforehand, as sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger.
  • If you’re eating at a friend’s house or at a party, be sure to dish your own food, so you can control portions and omit what you won’t eat.
  • If you encounter a food pusher, gently tell him/her that you’re working on a new food plan and as much you’d love to eat one of their offerings, it’s not included in your plan.
  • If ordering alcohol, stick to one glass of wine, which is 120 calories per 5 oz glass,  instead of sweet mixed drinks- for more details on caloric costs of alcohol and best choices, go to

Stay tuned for more information on how alcohol is processed differently in your body and how it affects weight gain.

It’s a good idea to take a long walk or do a moderate to intense workout before you eat, as your calorie needs will be at their highest within the 3 hour window after you exercise. Ironically, many of us are most likely to eat the biggest meal closer to dinner time, so be sure to include exercise on those days when you know you’ll be consuming more than usual.

The best food choices are fiber rich foods which include most vegetables.

Vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, zucchini, beets, bok choy, lettuce, collards, pumpkin, radish, onion, chard, watercress, etc.)
Most fruits
Eat often, and any time of day (especially for veggies)

When choosing the following foods, eat smaller portions, limit protein portions to 3-6 ounces

Starchy Sprouted grain breads
Sprouted grain pasta
Yams/sweet potatoes
Long grain riceslean, grass fed beef, free-rangepoultry, wild caught fish
During the 2-3 hours or so after exercise

Limit your consumption of these foods, but if you decide to eat them, eat very small portions and ideally within your 2 hour window after exercise.

Refined sugary Desserts
Fruit juice
Processed foods
Sports drinks
Most commercial nutrition bars
Dates, figs, raisins, dried fruits
Eat rarely, and during the 2-3 hours after exercise.

There are many great recipes that are low calorie, savory and satisfying so you won’t feel deprived of goodies during the holidays. Check out this website for some examples: Spoiler alert- these desserts contain sugar, but decreased amounts and plenty of tasty alternatives to higher calorie ingredients:

I couldn’t resist checking out some healthier and more interesting alternatives to potato latkes- If you want to keep the calories down for your latkes, simply bake instead of dropping them in oil.

Happy hanukkah, happy holiday season and keep your eye on the prize of continued exercise and healthy eating!

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