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Oct 27, 2016 12:37PM

Holiday meal ready: Upcoming class helps you make over menu and routines

By Chris Cashion
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Todd Mizener/tmizener@qconline.com
Pumpkin Pie Dip served with apple slices.
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November is sort of the month that kicks off the holiday season. It won't be long before visions of sugarplums are dancing in our heads. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, visions of savory stuffing, mashed potatoes and homemade pies will dance there, too.

Soon, the images pirouetting in our minds will jump to our plates, and heavy forkfuls will load them into our mouths until our bodies feel sluggish and incapable of any sort of dancing at all. The holidays can wreak havoc on our healthy routines, but they don't have to.

The folks at the Milan Hy-Vee and the University of Illinois Extension in Milan have teamed up to present the Holiday Makeover class on Nov. 3, to teach attendees how to embrace healthier eating and attitudes this holiday season. It's part of the Healthy Lifestyles that Last series, a collaborative effort between the two designed to provide education on a variety of nutrition and wellness topics, says University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator Kristin Bogdonas.

Bogdonas and Milan Hy-Vee dietitian Nina Struss met in 2013, shortly after Bogdonas began working with the extension. When they realized they had similar interests in health and wellness, they developed the Healthy Lifestyles series, which debuted in January.

"It's a monthly meetup to highlight new health topics such as mindful eating, foods to reduce stress, new research in heart health, superfoods and sustainable diets. Each meeting also incorporates guest speakers from the community to promote healthy lifestyles," Bogdonas says.

For November, the Holiday Makeover topic seemed like a natural fit.

During each class, "Kristin talks about wellness while I provide nutrition and education and product recommendations specific to Hy-Vee. The Holiday Makeover class was created as a way to educate the public about ways to include mindful eating practices during the holidays," Struss says.

Bogdonas says there will be something for everyone, "regardless of cooking experience, because we aren't just talking about food; we'll be talking about your relationship with food and how you experience food over the holiday season."

The duo will cover everything from what to make to how to make it — and they also will offer samples of healthy treats.

"Through mindful eating, we will discuss how to enjoy all foods, especially those specific to the holidays, without the feelings of guilt and overeating. We will also discuss ways to stay active and engage in physical wellness, as the holidays seem to be when most people essentially 'give up' on being healthy," Struss says.

Struss says she likes to "encourage people to find an outlet for activity during the holiday season instead of waiting for the New Year," including activities such as yoga, swimming, YouTube workouts or an at-home DVD, or the gym.

"Let's be honest, the holidays are stressful," she says. Activity helps "to provide an energy boost. Even the little things help — parking your car farther in the lot when shopping and taking the steps instead of an elevator or escalator whenever possible."

If your holidays tend to lead to an eating frenzy, Bogdonas suggests avoiding distractions, such as the television and mobile devices.

"By keeping your attention on your meal, you will eat less and enjoy your food more," she says.

She adds that it's important to pay attention to your body as well as what you are putting on your plate.

"Pay attention to your hunger cues. We're all born with them. This could be a rumbling tummy or feelings of fullness. Remember that it takes about 15 minutes for your brain to register 'fullness,' so slow down so you don't accidentally overeat," Bodgonas says.

"Balance is key. Make sure you have a variety of color and food groups on your plate. Avoid eating a plate full of carbohydrates and sweets by starting with the veggies and lean protein first."

During the class, Struss says she also will showcase several recipes, including some that are "healthier takes" on common holiday dishes.

"We will talk about substitutions that make a recipe healthier or that add nutrition," she says, including adding nuts or dried fruit to cookie recipes.

Recipe samples will be provided, she says, as well as product samples, recipe cards and coupons.

Struss plans to feature a healthy dessert, a vegetable side dish and an appetizer. One of the recipes Struss would like to spotlight is pumpkin pie dip. "One slice of pumpkin pie has 46 grams of carbohydrates," she says. "This can be a lot of carbohydrates for a person with diabetes to consume after they have already consumed a large holiday meal."

She also names taco dip as an example of a healthy "made over" favorite.

"It's one of my favorite options for an appetizer," which can be great at holiday events, she says, "especially if they contain fruits, vegetables and protein." The balance of these foods "will help provide nutrients like fiber and protein, which will help keep guests from overeating during the main meal," Struss says.

During the class at the extension office, Struss will talk about a number of substitutions you can use in common recipes, such as Greek yogurt, which can be used in most recipes in place of sour cream and mayonnaise.

"This provides a lower-fat option," if you're using low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt, and it "also provides a boost of protein to a recipe, which is helpful in creating a feeling of satiety," she says.

Struss encourages everyone to attend "because it's fun," she says. "The holidays always seem to be a stressful time, especially for those who struggle with good health and nutrition. The goal of this class is to give participants the tools needed to have a healthier holiday season."

The Holiday Makeover class will take place at the University of Illinois Extension office, at 321 2nd Ave., Milan, from 5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 3. The cost is $5.

To register, visit web.extension.illinois.edu.

Pumpkin Pie Dip
Makes 12 servings
1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup pumpkin pie filling
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup vanilla 0 percent Chobani Greek yogurt
6 sliced fresh apples (1/2 an apple per person), for serving

With an electric mixer at medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add pie filling, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, beating well.
Fold in yogurt on low speed until fully blended. Cover and chill eight hours. Serve with apple slices.
— Recipe source: Adapted slightly from chobani.com.

Taco Dip
Makes 12 servings
8 ounces Greek yogurt, plain
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1 can black beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 avocado
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup lettuce, shredded
1 tomato, diced
1 cup taco cheese

Mix together Greek yogurt and taco seasoning and set aside. In a blender, combine black beans, tomatoes, avocado, lime juice and garlic powder.
In an 8-by-8-inch dish, spread a layer of the yogurt mixture. Top it with the black bean mixture, then lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Refrigerate dip until ready to serve.
— Recipe source: Hy-Vee Dietitians

Green Bean Uncasserole
1 3/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 teaspoons cornstarch
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/3 cup 2 percent Greek yogurt
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch beans until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until tender and just starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer shallots to a small bowl, and wipe skillet clean with a paper towel.
Whisk together stock and cornstarch. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in skillet over high heat. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low; add shallots. Whisk in stock mixture. Cook until thick, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Toss in beans. Serve warm.
— Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Chris Cashion is a writer on staff with Radish.

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