Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
I should have written about this last week, but I didn’t want to spoil anyone’s Thanksgiving. Starting with this weekend’s turkeyfest and ending New Year’s Day, there’s three months of potential dietary disaster ahead. We’ve all heard, ignored, or panicked at the news stories that tell us we’re doomed to gain between two and 10 pounds by year’s end, unless we take charge of our diet and exercise decisions.
It’s too late for Thanksgiving, but there’s still hope for Halloween and Christmas!
Studies have shown — and millions of disappointed customers have realized — that fat-free, low-cal and whatever-hyphenated-else food isn’t the way to eat. You may even end up eating more of this engineered junk in the desire to feel satisfied, compared to a mindful portion of the real thing. Tradition takes over during the holidays, and food, like it or not, is part of the celebration. The real solution when it comes to food and health is portion control… so you can have your hearts’ desire and eat it, too.
Here are some tips from leading nutritionist Leslie Beck (www.lesliebeck.com) on how to enjoy and not engorge yourself over the coming months.
First, learn what an actual portion of food is; either on the package’s nutrition label or using a reliable guide (www.webmd.com has a good fridge-worthy one). The state of New York recently banned the sale of soda pops over 16 oz. — seems draconian, until you look at the label and realize that most beverage servings are 8 oz. It’s one of many examples of how our sense of serving has become overinflated… just like many of our waistlines. Just look at the rise in popularity of the pre-packaged, pre-portioned snack industry to realize how important proper portions are (provided you don’t eat five packages in one sitting!).
Cups and china were smaller in the past to reflect how much less food we used to eat. Beck suggests using smaller plates to create the illusion that you’re eating more food. If you have some cherished antique china and crystal, use it more often; it’s probably smaller than what you’re currently using and just collecting dust anyway. If you’re snacking, don’t eat straight out of the package as you’ll have no idea what’s going into your gullet. Use as small a bowl as you can reasonably enjoy. One modern piece of china you should employ is the largest water glass you can find: during the cooler months, we don’t drink as much water as we should. Water aids in digestion and satiation, and helps flush out all the extra salt and alcohol you’re probably also enjoying.
Since you’re trying to eat less, you should enjoy every little bite. Slow your pace; actually taste and chew what you’re eating instead of mindlessly inhaling it. Actually converse with who you’re eating with to further slow the process. Beck suggests using chopsticks if you’re finding this difficult. (I would add injuring your dominant hand… after slicing deep into my right thumb Friday night while preparing our Thanksgiving dinner; it took me twice as long to enjoy the meal on Saturday!)
Overall, you have to pick your battles at the table. I can have mashed potatoes any time, but I’m surely going to enjoy my Mom’s stuffing. And, while I can resist most Halloween candy (peanut butter cups aside), you bet I’m going to savour every slice of my cinnamon cheesecake.
This being said, if I find myself gobbling something down, the words THIS FOOD WILL STILL EXIST TOMORROW scroll through my mind in all-caps as a reminder to calm down and close my mouth. Leftovers always taste better, and Halloween candy isn’t going to magically walk out of my house overnight. We live in a land of plenty, blessed with 24-hour grocery stores, refrigerators and resealable containers — if you can find the willpower to put down your fork, you’ll somehow not die from starvation, and probably do your body good in the long run.
I did briefly fear I’d bleed to death this weekend. I was slicing carrots on a mandolin for this recipe and caught my thumb knuckle in the blade. The pain and swearing were ultimately worth it, however, as this dish was easy, elegant and fairly healthy. Try any wildflower honey you can find… and use a sharp knife instead of a mandolin!
Carrots with lavender honey
(from The Globe and Mail)
2 lb. carrots, peeled
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lavender honey
Parsley for garnish
Slice carrots. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add orange juice and honey, cover skillet and turn heat to low. Simmer carrots for 10 minutes or until crisp and tender. Remove lid, turn heat to high and cook for 3 minutes or until liquid has reduced to a glaze. Sprinkle with parsley.
Serves eight as a side.