“Do you still happen to have the list of secrets
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we put together for surviving the holidays?”
What a treat to see her name appear in my inbox this week
A couple of years have passed since I had the privilege of coaching a group of college girls through their 9-week Fitness and Nutrition Challenge. Naturally, everyone was a bit nervous about heading home for Thanksgiving
I hoped to show them a different way; that surviving the holidays doesn't mean we have to throw in the towel on our health routine or give up our favorite recipes. It also doesn't mean we have to start from scratch either
So, before everyone headed out of town, we brainstormed for healthy eating ideas they could fall back on
Thought it might be fun to share some of them today
Have a bite or two of everything you want (even your favorite dessert!) but don't overdo it on any one thing
Remember, the best part about Thanksgiving is about being with the people we love. Certainly, there's the food, but keep in perspective
The holidays are all about traditions, but even traditions can be tweaked in little, healthier ways
Water don't forget to drink water throughout the day. It'll help keep us full, so we don't overindulge
Swap refined sugar with honey, maple syrup, natural sugar, or dates whenever we can. (Especially maple syrup; it makes everything taste a little cozier)
Remind ourselves there will be leftovers. It's not our “last supper.”
Make lots of veggie side dishes and salads to fill our plates. Then we can still enjoy a few bites of indulgence, without all the guilt
Keep it simple, in everything from making the meal (or our dish to bring), to what we put on our plates. Think lots of veggies + a little bit of protein + a little bit of healthy fat. (Salad + turkey + olive oil-based salad dressing)
Need some ideas for health(ier) ingredient swaps?
Opt for a turkey that was raised without hormones, antibiotics, or arsenic-based drugs. Lots of groceries carry free-range birds that are often held to higher standards
Swap Crisco (shortening) for organic ghee instead. Shortening is essentially a solid form of trans fats, as opposed to ghee, which contains the right kinds of fats without the health risks
Reach for coconut cream instead of sweetened condensed milk. It's not the best sign when milk can sit on the shelf for years without any change. Coconut cream will provide the same flavor while also helping us burn those extra Thanksgiving calories
Read the labels .. bread crumbs and boxed stuffing can be heavily refined and processed. Thus full of surprising ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Choose brands that don't include any of these (or better yet, make them from scratch)
Lots of traditional recipes call for vegetable oil. Choose coconut oil instead, not only because it has a high smoke point (its fats are more impervious to high heat), but it brings a host of health benefits.
A few months ago, right about the time, in-season pears started appearing at the co-op, my parents sent us home with a treasure. Freshly cracked walnuts, harvested from the tree in our front yard. My goodness, there's nothing quite like them.
(ps: On the off chance you've never cracked a walnut; if somebody has cracked walnuts for you, they love you very much!)
Looking for some interesting ways to put them to use, glazing and sprinkling them on a salad with bold flavors was a nice choice. Any nut will work just as well, and I glazed a few pecans alongside.
The combination here isn't necessarily new, but I keep thinking it's a really nice fall salad with the sweetly spiced decadence of autumn comfort foods, along with fruit and leafy greens for balance.
With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I'm certain it would also make a great addition to your holiday menu.
It isn't the kind of salad you'd order when you're on your best eating behavior; the kind where you're thinking about protein, good fats, and staying power. Instead, it's more the fun kind, the kind on the side, the kind of dessert that's hiding in a camouflage of greens.
We have a few months until it's beach season again, right?
Blue Cheese and Pear Salad With Glazed Nuts
- Glazed Nuts
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon or honey mustard
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- fine grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups mixed greens
- 1 pear
- ¼ - ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese (or gorgonzola), for a milder alternative, try goat cheese crumbles
- Glazed Nuts
- Heat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- In 8" skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the brown sugar and water; cook 1 minute, stirring continuously, or until the brown sugar has dissolved
- Add the nuts and cinnamon; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring continuously, or until the syrup has thickened and nuts are coated
- Spread the pecans in a single layer in the pan
- Bake 8-10 minutes, or until the nuts are toasted, stirring after 4 minutes. (Keep a close eye on your pecans while they're cooking as oven temps can vary a bit)
- Immediately separate the pecans with a fork.
- Cool completely (~ 30 minutes)
- Which together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside
- Divide the greens between the plates
- Thinly slice the pear and layer over the greens
- Divide the blue cheese between the plates, and finish with the cooled glazed pecans
- Pour the vinaigrette evenly over each salad
- Serve and Enjoy!