I am in FULL THANKSGIVING mode this Monday morning. Counting down the seconds until it is Wednesday afternoon and I am baking in the kitchen getting ready to host our first Thanksgiving in our new home. Like everyone else, I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON. But I always struggle balancing the homemade cookies at the office, the spiked egg nog at the holiday parties and the ridiculous amount of food on Christmas Eve. I want to eat all the food, but not gain all the pounds.
Lucky for you – I shared my concerns with Sarah M. Kert, who is a nutrition and wellness coach, and she gave me a few tips I’m going to share with y’all today along with some healthy thanksgiving recipes. Grab a booch and read on!
Q&A with Sarah M. Kert
BS Nutritional Science – NSCA Certified Personal Trainer Nutrition & Wellness Coach
Q: I always feel so guilty during the holidays. It is SO hard to say no to those three layer Italian cookies! As a health and wellness coach, what is your take on food during the holidays?
Sarah: I love the holidays. I’m such a foodie and love cooking, so they are just so fun for me. I think everyone either does or used to over-do it during the holidays. Too much alcohol, too many sweets, too much food, and much less activity than usual. I’ve definitely been there in the past, but year after year hate how I felt afterwards. The holidays should be a time of fun, family, and joy, but because of this over-indulging, it can be instead a time of stress, guilt, and self-loathing. I think this relationship with food and balance during the holidays is very individualized.
Q: Okay, so how do you balance your “holiday calories?”
Sarah: Here are some questions to ask yourself that I find to be a really helpful guide:
- Think of what you really love, and think of what you can do without (in regards to food).
- Think about your favorite parts of the holidays, why they are important to you, what you are looking forward to, and what you are not looking forward to.
- How would you like to feel (emotionally) during the holidays?
I’m a planner and love making lists, so if this is you, try making a list or brainstorm. If that’s not you, just be mindful of these questions leading up to the holidays.
When I answer these questions, I think of a few things: I love the festivity of the holidays, being with family, watching movies and relaxing, cooking big special meals, and eating my favorite foods (turkey legs, pavlova, anything chocolate, sweet potato/squash, and Reisling are my favorite holiday treats!!). I look forward to these things that I love, and I don’t look forward to the potential feeling of disappointment and guilt if I over-do it in regards to food. During the holidays I would love to feel happy, loved, joyful, at peace, relaxed, content, and grateful.
Ok now look at your list: what can you do before, during, and after the holidays to maximize the positives and reduce the negatives? I like to make sure I carve out time for my workouts, prioritize my favorite foods so that I don’t over-indulge, plan ahead of time work and chores so that I can have time for relaxation and enjoyment, and if I do over-indulge, prepare for that by accepting that it may happen, and avoid feelings of guilt. Above all-else, living in the moment of the holidays, practicing mindfulness, is key.
Q: Keeping that in mind, what are some foods to avoid during the holiday season?
Sarah: This answer would be a little different for everyone, because everyone’s diets are different. However personally, I try to avoid foods that I only kinda-like, so that I can really enjoy the foods that I love. I also try to avoid excess alcohol and added sugars, because these are two things that I avoid on a day-to-day basis, and know that if I have too much, I’ll feel awful.
Q: I totally agree with that. Now let’s shift over to what holiday foods we will be eating. What are your go-to holiday foods?
Sarah: My go-to holiday foods are turkey of any kind (especially turkey legs), pavlova (not a healthy dessert, but my all-time favorite), anything dark-chocolate, sweet potato and squash, and a little bit of Riesling! I don’t drink much, but when I do, Riesling with frozen raspberries is my favorite! I love healthy dessert recipes during the holidays, because I can enjoy them without the sugar-hangover.
Q: Any other holiday tips before we check out your awesome recipes.
Sarah: My number one tip for the holidays is to practice mindfulness, gratitude, be forgiving to yourself, and practice self-love.
Cranberry & Turkey Stuffed Squash
- -1 lb lean ground turkey
- -3 whole acorn squash
- -1 sweet onion
- -1 clove garlic
- -2 T olive oil
- -2 tsp salt
- -1 tsp pepper
- -2 tsp thyme
- -2 tsp parsley
- -1 tsp ground ginger
- -1/3 cup dried cranberries (no added sugars)
- -1/4 cup grated parmesan
- Cut each acorn squash in half with a large, sharp knife, clean out seeds, and rub with 1 T olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400-degree oven for approximately 40 minutes until tender.
- While squash is roasting, sauté chopped onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a large skillet until translucent.
- Add ground turkey, thyme, ginger, and parsley, and sauté until ¾ cooked.
- Remove from stove-top, and add dried cranberries.
- Remove the acorn squash from the oven, and divide turkey filling evenly between all six halves. Top with parmesan, and bake in the oven for an additional 20 minutes.
- Once fully cooked and golden brown, remove from oven, cool slightly, and serve.
Maple Pecan Cheesecake
- -3/4 cup soaked dates
- -1 cup pecans
- -3 T coconut oil or butter
- -1.5 cups whole wheat flour
- -1 tsp salt
- -2 cups cottage cheese
- -1/4 cup maple syrup
- -1/4 cup soaked dates
- -1/2 cup dark chocolate covered pecans
- In a food processor, combine soaked dates, ¼ cup soaking liquid, and pecans until a smooth mixture is formed.
- In a large bowl, combine food processor mixture with flour, salt, and butter (or coconut oil), until a sand-like dough is formed. Press into the bottom of a greased spring-form pan or tart pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, combine cottage cheese, dates, and maple syrup in a blender, and combine until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for one hour until chilled.
- Once crust and filling are both cool, fill, and decorate with cut, whole, and/or crushed chocolate covered pecans.
- Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until time to serve.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!