With Thanksgiving just around the corner I thought it would be helpful to arm you in your holiday cooking with at least one healthy remake of a traditional Thanksgiving dish. Green bean casserole has graced many a table every holiday season. The green beans itself plays host to an impressive list of nutrients including vitamins K, C, A, B2, and B1, as well as omega 3-fatty acids, fiber, iron, calcium, protein, and potassium. Green beans provide antioxidant support, cardiovascular benefits, bone health benefits, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Although readily available canned, fresh green beans provide the most health benefits.
The typical green bean casserole bathes ingredients in a heavy cream sauce and tops them with buttered bread crumbs and cheese. This healthier version saves about 160 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat compared to a more traditional recipe.
Nutrition Profile: low calorie, high fiber, low saturated fat, low cholesterol, low sodium, high calcium, heart healthy, diabetes and healthy weight appropriate.
2 ½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces.
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided.
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
2 ½ cup low-fat or fat free milk
1 ½ cups fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs or ½ cup shredded or crumbled low fat cheese.
Position racks in upper and lower third of oven; preheat to 425°F.
Toss green beans in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil until well coated. Divide between 2 baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast, stirring once and rotating the pans top to bottom about halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add milk and continue to stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until the sauce bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the green beans are done, remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.
Transfer half the green beans to a 2-quart, broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the green beans. Add the remaining green beans and top with the remaining sauce.
Combine breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl (skip this step if you are topping with cheese).
Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture (or cheese) over the gratin. Place under the broiler and broil, watching closely, until the gratin is bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Per Serving (1 cup): 170 calories, 7g fat (1g sat, 4g mono); 4 mg cholesterol; 23g carbohydrates, 7g protein; 5g fiber; 303 mg sodium.
Parties are an enjoyable and festive way to celebrate the season, but party-goes often find their resolve weakening in the face of bountiful and calorie-laden food spreads. The good news is nutrition experts agree that all holiday foods can easily fit into a healthy diet- if eaten in moderation. Here are some effective tips for controlling calories at those notorious holiday feasts.
1. Create and stick to a plan. To help maintain healthy habits, identify potential problem areas and anticipate solutions that may present challenges. It is ok to allow yourself some slack and not to aim for perfection (which honestly is impossible during the holiday season). Choose to focus on two areas at most. For example focus on sticking to a firm workout schedule and avoiding the cheese and sausage tray if that is a weakness. By recognizing and anticipating your primary weakness, you are more likely to stick with a plan.
2. Maintain a regular schedule. The holidays can be hectic, but it is important to continue to eat at normal mealtimes. Don’t try to make up for bad eating by skipping breakfast or lunch. This will set you up for poor energy, hunger and bad food choices at whatever party or dinner you are attending. Instead have a plan. For example if you’re going to an evening event, eat a balanced, lighter lunch such as a mixed green salad with fruit and grilled chicken. High fiber snacks can also be helpful in the midafternoon to avoid showing up at the party starving.
3. Practice mindfulness. Before you pile any party food onto your plate, scan the offerings on the table. Take a look around the buffet to see what is being served. This will help you make better choices. Also savor both the food and the conversations you have with other guests; eating slowly will help you become more aware of when you are satisfied and feeling full.
4. Be selective. It’s normal to want to sample everything, but you may want to consider “saving” your calories for those favorites that come around only once a year. In other words, skip the mundane chips and dip, and go for a small serving of Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving.
5. Beware of Beverages. Limiting alcoholic beverages can save a tremendous amount of empty calories. Limit them to 1-2 drinks per day. The same goes for sweetened, nonalcoholic beverages. Instead of punch, choose sparkling water and sugar-free drinks.
6. Practice portion control. The bigger the plate, the more you’ll want to put on it and with an endless supply of tempting foods filling up a large plate is very easy to do. It also easily leads to unknowingly consuming fare more than your normal daily allowance of calories and fat. A trick that I always tell clients to use is reach for a small salad plate rather than the large dinner plate. Smaller plates help to regulate your portions as there is only so much that can fit on a small salad plate.
7. Fuel up frequently. Never, EVER, leave the house hungry. If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping hungry you know where this is going to lead. You’ll end up eating more food then you realize before you even know it. Grab a quick 150-200 calorie snack, preferably a combination of high fiber and protein to stabilize blood sugar and appetite. Carry power snacks such as nuts and dried fruit as well as a bottle of while shopping and running errands.
8. Practice self-monitoring. Set a simple fitness and eating goal at the beginning of the holiday season, and monitor yourself. Stay on track by using a tool that works for you, such as a food log or a fitness journal. Use the log to record how much you eat, and don’t forget to include anything you had at parties. To remind yourself of the pay off, identify your own reason for staying on track, then put it in writing and repeat it like a mantra each day.
9. Be a social butterfly. Remember the holidays are about being with those you love not as a free ride to consume all the food you want. That being said, heading into holiday parties with the mindset that you are seeking companionship and to reconnect with family and friends may help you eat less.
10. Don’t diet. Yep, you read that correctly. Starting a weight loss program at the start of the season is a recipe for disaster. Attempting to diet in the face of holiday feasts can actually backfire, causing you to binge when presented with such temptation. Instead, create a plan for success at the start of the season and stick to it.
Until next week!
G. Nicole Shea, BS, ACSM-CPT
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
Zumba® Fitness Instructor