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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Cook Up Some Healthy Nutrition for the Holidays: Enjoy Favorite Holiday Meals with a Healthy Twist

Nov 30, 2011 02:45PM ● By Debra Harrigan, ND

The holidays can be a challenging time for even the most health-conscious individuals. Festive gatherings, traditional meals and holiday cheer can take a toll during the months when most of us are less physically active.

By modernizing traditional meals, we can provide updated, tasty alternatives, while preserving the sentimental holiday experience. Remember that the body will compensate for occasional deviations from healthy eating, so what we consume before and after the main meal matters greatly. Digestive enzymes must go a long way after consuming a heavy meal, and refraining from ice-cold beverages at mealtime will assist digestion and help return us to a comfortable state.

Most of us receive great pleasure and have warm memories of the turkey and trimmings that adorned our tables throughout the years. Overall, it’s not a bad meal, including a healthy, lean protein, served with a variety of fresh vegetables and some not-so-healthy desserts and beverages. Tweaking some of the side dishes can make a big difference, especially because our holiday meal usually results in several days worth of leftovers, and who doesn’t look forward to the leftovers?

Let’s start with the starches. Potatoes are one of the most common additions to any holiday meal and can also be one of the unhealthiest components. There’s the buttery mashed potatoes and the oh-so-sweet potato casserole that are both high in sugar and unhealthy fats, and depending on how they’re prepared, just as unhealthy as the desserts at the end of the meal. In an attempt to minimize the guilt of those desserts, consider serving the turkey on a bed of Harvest Rice and have a variety of roasted root vegetables as a side. Both dishes are delicious and fit in perfectly with the flavors of the meal.

Harvest Rice

Serves 10

With a combination of healthy protein, fiber and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, this dish will not only pack a nutritional punch, but it’s sure to become one of your seasonal favorites. Think of this dish as a safeguard against some of the not-so-healthy options at the holiday table.

3  cups long grain brown rice
1  cup wild rice
½ cup chopped pecans
¾ cup chopped celery
1 medium onion
¾ cup chopped green onion (scallions)
1  tsp freshly chopped garlic
2  cups sliced white mushroom
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup golden raisons
2  Tbsp olive oil
2  cups low-sodium organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth,
if vegetarian)
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Wash the uncooked wild rice and brown rice separately with cold water. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add wild rice and cook for 15 minutes. Add brown rice and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes (Hint: cook the rice as if it’s pasta; in enough water to keep the rice fully submerged throughout the cooking process.). Drain the rice and rinse with cool running water. Drain all excess water. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Sauté onion, celery and garlic until browned and tender. Add the mushrooms and pecans during the last few minutes of cooking. Add the rice, the chicken broth, sea salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and mix in raisons and cranberries. Sprinkle with scallions.

Roasted Root Vegetables (with a twist!)

Serves 10Healthy holiday dishes

This delicious medley of seasonal vegetables offers many therapeutic properties, in addition to tantalizing our taste buds. This combination has antioxidant properties and is high in fiber and complex carbohydr ates that  w on’ t spike our blood sugar or cause us to feel sluggish after eating them. This dish also has immune enhancing properties and aid in detoxification. What more can we ask of Mother Nature?

1  medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2  medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
2  carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 to 8 fingerling potatoes, washed and cut lengthwise in half
2  medium parsnips, peeled and cut into
1 inch pieces
2  large beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
2  medium onions, peeled and cut into
½-inch wedges
2  apples (gala, pink lady or Fuji), peeled and cut into wedges
½ tsp cinnamon
1  Tbsp honey
4  Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1  head garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3  sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine the apples, honey and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the onions and root vegetable in a roasting pan. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Mix the vegetables with your hands to coat them evenly. Roast the mixture for approximately 50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the garlic cloves and seasoned apples in with the vegetables. Continue roasting until the vegetables are tender and evenly browned. Before serving, sprinkle with fresh rosemary.

Enjoy, and remember that taking digestive enzymes and staying hydrated will help to minimize feeling the affects of the holiday meal the day after. Also, starting the day on the right foot with a wholesome breakfast, consisting of a healthy protein and free of refined carbohydrates, will avoid an unstable blood sugar and eating in a “reactionary” manner all day long. You can’t undo an unhealthy start of the day, but the good news is that every day starts with a clean slate, so choose wisely and happy holidays.

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