7 Lighter Ways to Kick Off Your Holiday Meal

by in Healthy Holidays, Healthy Recipes, December 1, 2016

As much as we love baked Brie wrapped in phyllo dough, the best-executed holiday cocktail hours consist of light, refreshing bites that anticipate the meal ahead — without spoiling it completely. If there’s a creamy, bubbling-hot dip on the table, it should come as no surprise when your meticulously arranged crudite platter goes untouched and, worst of all, your guests are too stuffed to enjoy the main event. Small bites that are not only light but also quick and easy to make are best for everyone in attendance — especially the host — so choose recipes that require no more than 20 minutes of prep work (the less time, the better). Here are five finger foods you can count on to hit the mark at your upcoming soiree.

Vegetarian Spinach-Walnut Pate (pictured at top)
This creamy, spinach-packed appetizer spreads like pate, and the tart bursts of pomegranate seeds remind us of caviar. Set it out with an array of fresh vegetables and crackers, for dipping.

Read more

Host a Healthy Holiday Open House

by in Healthy Holidays, November 30, 2016

The holiday season has become so hectic and overscheduled that finding a night to throw a dinner party or cocktail soiree has become nearly impossible. One solution is hosting a laid-back holiday open house, which allows guests to come and go as they please after crossing some holiday shopping off their lists. These shindigs run for about four hours during a weekend afternoon, and the flexibility can help minimize holiday stress for the host and guests alike. Plus, typical open-house fare is cocktails and light bites, which means you won’t bust a pant button on your way out. Use these tips and recipes to help you host a tasty and healthy open house this holiday season. Cheers!

Keeping Things Light

Delicious and healthy can go hand in hand if you follow these tips.

Minimize fried goodies: There are many finger foods and apps to choose that don’t need to be fried.

Add color: Select recipes with seasonal fruits and veggies for gorgeous eye appeal. Fruits and veggies also tend to be light in calories.

Go for lean protein: Choose lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey to help keep foods healthier, or opt for fish like salmon or tuna (to boost Omega-3s) and shellfish like shrimp and crab.

Offer small plates: Eating off smaller-sized plates means less food (or at least more trips to the buffet table to get the same amount of food). Instead of 9-inch dinner plates, offer smaller sized dishes.

Use a jigger: To keep calories from alcohol under control and prevent guests from getting overserved, use a jigger to measure alcohol instead of “eyeballing it” when making cocktails.

Offer low- and no-calorie beverages: Serve unsweetened iced tea, hot tea and coffee, and sparkling water with a twist of fruit as low-cal options. Read more

Tips for Exercising in Cold Weather

by in Fitness and Wellness, November 28, 2016

Just because the temperature dips doesn’t mean your exercise routine needs to take a dive. Keep these four rules in mind to exercise safely all winter long.

Rule #1: Warm Up

Pun intended! Get blood flowing to muscles, and increase your heart rate before heading out into the cold. The increased circulation will help prime muscles for activity and may help reduce the risk of injury.

Rule #2: Keep On Hydrating

This may be more obvious during warmer months, but you still need to drink plenty of fluids when exercising in the cold; you’re still sweating, and you need to replenish fluids lost. Both warm and cold fluids will help contribute to hydration, so reach for whichever you prefer. A little caffeine will help boost performance, but too much can have a negative effect on digestion, so keep your intake conservative. Read more

Can’t Take More Steps Each Day? Then Take Faster Ones

by in Fitness and Wellness, November 27, 2016

An entire industry of fitness-tracking devices has sprung up to support the expert-recommended goal of taking 10,000 steps daily. And while that’s a great amount to shoot for, a new study has shown that if you can’t get in quite that many steps a day, there are other ways to reap the same health benefits. The study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, shows that if you (like the average American) can get in only 5,000 to 7,000 steps daily, the trick is to pick up the pace for about half of them.

Walking at a brisk pace (which the researchers defined as 100 or more steps per minute) should be your goal for at least 30 minutes a day, in order to reduce a variety of cardiometabolic risk factors. The other key finding was that no matter how many steps you get in daily, it pays to try to reduce the amount of time you spend not moving at all.

Need help achieving those goals? Here are some tips from Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist, to get you moving. Read more

Kitchen Trend: Instant Pot

by in Product Reviews, November 26, 2016

Your grandma’s pressure cooker is getting a reboot. The Instant Pot has helped make the electric pressure cooker trendy, but in a safer and more user-friendly way. Find out all there is to know about this old-school cooking tool.

Pressure Cooking 101

A pressure cooker is essentially a chamber of steam that quickly heats to a high temperature, rapidly cooking food within a moist environment. While there is a bit of a learning curve when using a pressure cooker, it is fairly simple to operate. Newer models have sophisticated dials and built-in safety mechanisms to help avoid the feared explosion of piping-hot food all over the kitchen.

Cooking via this speedy method offers not only culinary convenience but also better nutrition, because the high heat and fast cooking allow food to retain nutrients. Pressure cookers also do their part for the environment, offering up to a 70 percent energy saving compared with slower cooking techniques.

 The Instant Pot

At the forefront of the pressure cooker revolution is the Instant Pot. Created by a Canadian company, this updated version of the classic machine offers an all-in-one system that allows for pressure cooking, as well as slow cooking, rice cooking, sauteing, steaming and yogurt making.  Read more

Are You Eating the Right Omegas? Most Americans Aren’t 

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, November 25, 2016

We hear a lot about the importance of getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in our diets — and with good reason. They’re heart-healthy fats that help decrease inflammation, plus they’re important for brain development and function. The other Omega fatty acids — the Omega-6 oils — are also considered “essential fatty acids” that are needed for several body processes. But some of them can also cause inflammation when eaten in excess. So while we do need adequate amounts of both in our diets, most of us are getting way too much Omega-6 and way too little Omega-3.

“In the standard American diet, people are getting about a 20-to-one ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3,” says Chris D’Adamo, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology and public health, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Ideally, that ratio should be more like three-to-one.” The trouble is that Omega-6 fatty acids have become ubiquitous in our food supply in a way that they were not several decades ago. They are found in vegetable oils — like corn, sunflower, safflower and soybean — that are a staple ingredient in so many refined, processed and packaged foods. And when modern agricultural methods meant a shift from livestock that grazed on Omega-3-rich grasses to livestock that was fed Omega-6-packed grains, the balance in our diets shifted even more. Read more

Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms

by in Healthy Holidays, Healthy Recipes, Thanksgiving, November 24, 2016

Layer after layer of warm cheesy potatoes — it’s pretty much a classic definition for comfort food. Here, buttery yellow-skinned potatoes and thickly sliced mushrooms are drenched in a 10-minute cream sauce and sprinkled with rich blue cheese.

In past decades, scalloped potatoes were on the dinner rotation with other casseroles. But these Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms have been updated for modern tastes, and they feature a few tricks that make them lighter than the cream-drenched “covered dishes” of the past. Here’s what I stirred up:

Yukon Gold Potatoes
These thin-skinned potatoes taste buttery even without the addition of any dairy. Leaving the skins on ups the flavor and nutrition.

Blue Cheese
Your grandma probably didn’t add blue cheese to her hot dish; using this umami-rich cheese packs intense flavor throughout the recipe, with the use of only a half-cup of cheese.

Baby Bella Mushrooms
Also known as “cremini,” these meaty mushrooms are sliced thick to give them solid structure, making the scalloped potatoes hearty enough to serve as a meatless meal. Also, mushrooms contain vitamin D, which may help improve your mood as daytime sunshine becomes sparse. Read more

Will Soda in Your City Soon Cost More?

by in Food News, November 23, 2016

Is it time for budget- and health-minded beverage buyers to switch to seltzer or stick to water? If you live in a growing number of U.S. cities, sucking down sodas and other sugary beverages will now cost you more, thanks to new taxes.

Here’s a rundown of cities and counties that have enacted soda taxes, starting with five that did so just this month:

Cook County, Ill.: The populous Illinois county that is home to Chicago will see a penny-per-ounce beverage tax — over and above the usual sales tax — added to the purchase of sweetened drinks such as soda, iced tea, lemonade and sports drinks, whether bottled, canned or from a fountain. The tax, which goes into effect July 1, was approved by the Cook County Board on Thursday, November 10, and is expected to raise $224 million in revenue per year.

San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif.: Voters in these Bay Area municipalities overwhelmingly passed soda taxes on Tuesday, November 8, in an effort to lower rates of diabetes and obesity — and raise revenues. Read more

Pepper and Pie Thanksgiving Cocktail

by in Healthy Recipes, November 22, 2016

If you’re searching for a warm way to welcome your Thanksgiving guests on Thursday, look no further than an autumnal Pepper and Pie Cocktail from Watershed Distillery. On a recent culinary tour of Columbus, Ohio, I had the chance to sample the local spirit-maker’s small-batch bourbon, gin and vodka, as well as cocktails from Alex Chien, bar manager of the soon-to-open Watershed Kitchen & Bar. Everyone raved about Alex’s refreshing cocktail made with tomato water, grapefruit, tarragon and Watershed’s Four Peel Gin (which, in addition to the usual juniper, is made with four citrus peels: orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime).

I’ve been craving Chien’s creative craft cocktails ever since, so I asked him to share a drink recipe with Healthy Eats especially for Thanksgiving entertaining. His Pepper and Pie Cocktail harnesses fall’s best flavors — warming bourbon, apple cider, pumpkin puree, fresh apples and rosemary — in a single glass that drinks splendidly alongside holiday fare. It’s the perfect drink to greet guests with when they arrive for your Thanksgiving feast, or to make for yourself when you finally start the dishwasher and kick up your feet at the end of the night.

Pepper and Pie Cocktail
Yield: 1 serving
Recipe courtesy of Watershed Distillery Read more

5 Ways to Navigate Food Allergies During the Holidays

by in Healthy Holidays, Healthy Tips, November 21, 2016

Have you ever hosted a holiday feast and genuinely enjoyed the gathering as much as your guests did? It can be a reality — with a little help from your friends. During the holidays, many of the top food allergens — especially gluten, dairy, eggs and tree nuts — appear throughout the meal. This year, we’re turning the tables on guests and preparing them with these five easy tips to make this season’s holiday feast fun, and safe from allergies, for everyone.

1. Be prepared.
Avoid anxiety by giving the host a heads-up about any food allergies or intolerances the moment you receive the invitation. Ask if you can bring your favorite dish or dessert. It’s an opportunity to share not only the gift of food, but also your personal food memories and family traditions.

2. Be generous.
If you approach the gathering from a place of gratitude rather than just focusing on the food, your experience will shift. How often do you get the chance to be with those you love or meet charming new people? Think of everyone you get to spend time with, the laughter and the all-too-rare, real-life interactions. Invaluable. Read more