Feast your eyes: 5 holiday recipes the whole family will love

Reading Time: 2 minutes Looking for a dish to bring to your holiday potluck or family dinner? We’ve narrowed it down for you.

How to react less and enjoy more this holiday season

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The holidays are coming up, and I know two things for certain: (1) My aunt will re-gift me an old book and pretend she bought it for me, and (2) someone will start an argument at the big family dinner. It’s usually good-natured bickering, but now and then, it gets heated—and sometimes I get pulled in. Even though we love each other, we can end up saying angry or hurtful things, and it takes time for everyone to calm down. Maybe you’ve been in a situation like that before.

When we find ourselves getting upset with someone, we have two choices. We could cut loose and vent our emotions, which is tempting and might feel satisfying at the time. But those feelings of relief won’t last long. In the end, you might hurt people’s feelings and deepen the conflict.

OK, so maybe we really have only one choice, or at least one good one—we can apply strategies to calm down, see our emotions clearly, and respond rather than react. As the great psychiatrist Victor Frankl wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response.”

In the video below, I share one method for calming down in the midst of a conflict. Give it a watch, then give it a try. Happy holidays.

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Article sources

Hamilton, D. M. (2015, December 22). Calming your brain during conflict. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/12/calming-your-brain-during-conflict

Mind your mind: Stress less this holiday season

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Finals are over. You’re supposed to head back home today but you can’t locate your suitcase, let alone think about packing it. Remember which airline you’re flying? Better find out.  And be sure to brace for the annual fight over who shovels the driveway. Urgh, you just can’t even.

Before you resign yourself to a winter break in your residence hall room, learn the art of the conscious breath. You’ll need it when Uncle Reg tries to seat you at the kids’ table.

Learn to breathe better

A conscious breath is a slow, deep breath that you observe closely, feeling it in your body from beginning to end. It settles your nervous system, convinces your heart that you’re not actually running a marathon, and helps you feel grounded. Try one now. See how different it feels?

You can take a conscious breath (or even a few) whenever you need a mini staycation in your mind. It might be especially helpful when:

  1. You are stressed or worried—for example, if you’re desperately trying to locate your flight info. The conscious breath will help you find your calm.
  2. You have a headache or your muscles feel tight. The conscious breath releases tension.
  3. You’re impatient, waiting in line, or dealing with the horrendous holiday traffic to the mall. The conscious breath will help you feel more patient and maybe reduce your road rage.
  4. Your friends or family are getting on your last nerve. Conscious breathing will help you maintain peace of mind or at least prevent you from spewing out things you’ll later regret.
  5. You are drowning in the details of that last final project. A conscious breath will help you reconnect with the big picture.

A student’s verdict

“I was really losing it, so I just sat down, closed my eyes and took a really long breath. And then another. After a few more I felt back in control, and realized if I did one thing at a time, I’d get it all done. And I did.”

+ Conscious breathing with Koru Mindfulness

Season’s eatings: Healthy twists on holiday dishes

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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What is December about? For many of us: candle lighting, religious services, and gift giving. Also: pinatas, plates, and parties loaded with sweet treats and indulgences. “Small tweaks in your diet (and exercise routine) can make a huge impact this holiday season,” says Alexandra Pitkin, a clinical research dietitian in Boston, Massachusetts. “I do not promote restriction; the trick is not over-indulging,” says Brian Miller, a nutrition consultant in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Although the average US adult gains only 2 pounds a year between November and January, most of us don’t lose that weight and it accumulates over time, reports the New England Journal of Medicine (2000). Here’s how to avoid gaining it in the first place.

Our experts

  • Alexandra Pitkin, RD, LDN, clinical research dietitian in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Brian Miller, MS, RD, nutrition consultant in Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Jenna Volpe, RD, registered dietitian specializing in weight management and eating disorders, in Quincy, Massachusetts

Festive dinner

Traditional

  • ½ cup mashed potatoes
  • 8 oz. eggnog
  • 1 slice pecan pie
  • 4 oz. roast beef or ham
  • ½ cup stuffing
  • ½ cup
  • green bean casserole

Estimated nutrition facts

  • Calories 1,400–1,550
  • Fat 80–95g
  • Carbs  125g (50g from refined sugars)
  • Sodium  1,745 mg

Tweaked

  • ½ cup roasted veggies
  • 1 cup salad
  • 4 oz. baked fish
  • ½ cup mashed sweet potatoes
  • ¾ cup apple crisp
  • 8 oz.homemade eggnog

Estimated nutrition facts

  • Calories  650
  • Fat 35–45g
  • Carbs  45–60g (little or none from refined sugars)
  • Sodium 500–750mg

Appetizers & snacks

Go light on these

  • Pigs in a blanket
  • Chicken wings
  • Fried anything

Here’s why
“Traditional holiday dips, buffalo chicken, etc. contain a lot of saturated fat and calories, and are typically paired with bread or chips. This can add up to more calories than a full meal, with little nutrition.”—A.P.

Try these instead

Here’s how
“Try some of the healthier items first. Remember to leave room for the main course and a maybe a little dessert later.”—B.M

Nutritious selections at buffets

Nutritious selections at buffets
“When attending a party, think about some healthy options to bring. It’s amazing that the healthier options out there can be just as (if not more) tasty than their less healthy counterparts.” —Brian Miller, MS, RD

  • Stuffed mushrooms (Italian) or champinones al ajillo (Spanish)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Cheese, up to 2 oz. (1 oz. of cheese = size of four dice)
  • Mixed nuts (handful)
  • Fresh veggies
  • Hummus
  • Shrimp cocktail

Side dishes

Plan ahead, eat mindfully, and limit your indulgences to the foods you really enjoy.
“If you’re hosting, send people home with leftovers.”—B.M.

Go light on these

  • Dinner rolls
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed white potatoes
  • Casseroles made with canned soups, refined crackers, or butter/margarine, or high  sodium

Here’s why
High saturated fat and sodium,  low nutrition. “Green bean casseroles can be high in saturated fat and sodium if not prepared properly.”—B.M.

Try these instead

Here’s why
“For example, sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins and minerals, and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Choose baked or roasted sweet potatoes over candied or sweet potato casserole.” —A.P.

Beverages

“Eat your calories: Don’t drink them.” —A.P.

Go light on these

  • Store-bought eggnog
  • Hot chocolate
  • Sodas (regular and diet)
  • Special holiday drinks at coffee shops

Here’s why
“Eggnog is high in fat and calories. One of these drinks provides more calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger.” —A.P.

Regular sodas are likely to send our blood sugar through the roof. Diet sodas contain carcinogenic preservatives such as sodium benzoate. This can sometimes convert to benzene, a cancer-causing agent.

Try these instead

  • Homemade eggnog
  • Coffee or tea with milk and/or raw honey
  • Fruit-flavored seltzer water with fresh lemon/lime
  • Pomegranate juice with ginger ale and lime

Here’s how
“Choose sparkling cider instead of store-bought eggnog and slash half the fat and calories.” —A.P.

Desserts

Don’t forbid yourself. Try to limit to one serving and balance with something nutritious. “Limit, not eliminate, traditional holiday desserts like cookies and candies.”—B.M.

Go light on these

  • Traditional holiday baked goods made with lots of
    white sugar and refined flour

Here’s why
“Pecan pie is loaded with calories and sugar, as much as a can of regular soda. If you eat pie, leave some of the crust behind.” —A.P.

Try these instead

  • Cookie with a glass of milk for calcium and protein
  • Dark chocolate-covered strawberries
  • Simple apple crisp
  • Avocado mousse (with cocoa powder & agave nectar)

Here’s why
“Angel food cake is a great choice because it contains minimal fat and is lower in calories than regular cake. Or choose a piece of dark chocolate to satisfy sweet cravings.”  —A.P.
“When we’re allowed to celebrate, we tend to eat less.”—B.M.

Meal

Self-monitoring helps people feel good about their food choices, research shows. Record your food intake. Try one of the many free apps and websites, such as MyFitnessPal.

Go light on these

  • Red meats
  • Pork
  • Stews cooked in fat

Try these instead

Students share their strategies

“I love eggnog, so I allow myself to buy one quart a year and when it’s gone, that’s it.”
—Dejah W., student at Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, Massachusetts

“I drink a lot of water to try to fill up in between meals.”
—Brogan P., second-year graduate student, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“I try for the 80/20 principle. If I eat healthy 80 percent of the time, then I can enjoy unhealthy foods 20 percent of the time.”
 —Daniel A., student at Wake Technical Community College, Raleigh, North Carolina

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