Healthy (and easy!) Holiday Entertaining

Feeling overwhelmed by the holidays?  Are you looking for ways to simplify holiday entertaining so you can focus on the things that really matter, like hanging out with your family and friends?  I totally get it, which is why I recently appeared on WBAL in Baltimore to share my best tips for easy entertaining.  Yes, I said it, easy – it’s really all about keeping the food healthy and the people happy, which is so much simpler than it sounds!  Keep reading to learn my favorite time-saving tips and tricks.

rebecca wbal

Bring a Hostess Gift

If you’re not the one doing the actual entertaining, it’s always thoughtful to bring a gift for the hard-working hostess.  I love bringing all the fixings for a signature cocktail station with quality foods.  Some of my faves are Sweet Scarletts, which are sweet, Vitamin C-loaded grapefruits with a beautiful red color,  antioxidants and potassium-rich POM Wonderful juice, and POM POMS fresh pomegranate arils which do all the work of scooping the seeds for you.  Make cocktails with the juices and some vodka or champagne, or make mocktails by adding sparkling water.  Use the fresh Sweet Scarlett segments and POM POMS arils for a nutritious and gorgeous garnish.  POM has loads of drink recipes on their website for more boozy inspiration.

image source: pomwonderful.com

image source: pomwonderful.com

Another great hostess gift is a cheese board – bring it stocked with your favorite healthy snacks, and then leave it behind when the party ends.  I always include cubes of my favorite cheese (I love a sharp Cheddar) and Wonderful pistachios, which are full of protein and filling fiber, and have a big serving size – 30 pistachios have only about 100 calories.  Round out the cheese plate with Vitamin-C boosting-Halos, which are sweet, seedless, and easy to peel.

Score a Touchdown at Your Tailgate

Tailgate parties are all about the dip.  And did you know that Sabra is the official dip sponsor of the NFL and that you can win prizes like a trip to the 2016 Pro Bowl in Hawaii when you buy their dips?

Image source: sabra.com

Image source: sabra.com

There are tons of easy, festive ways to use Sabra dips during the holiday season.  I’m personally partial to their hummus because it has plant protein, fiber, and good-for-you fats, plus it tastes amazing.  Try warming it up since the weather is a bit cooler outside and top it with beautiful red pomegranate arils for a festive touch.  The Greek yogurt dip is another family favorite – serve it with your favorite veggies and warm pita triangles (just cut the what pita into wedges and microwave for a few seconds).  I like using red and green bell peppers at this time of year for a little kick of holiday cheer.  Speaking of red and green, pair up Salsa and Guacamole for a pretty party platter; just place them side by side and fill the rest of the platter with tortilla chips and you have a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Visit sabradiplife.com for coupons, recipes, and prize info.

Serve Wheat Foods with Confidence 

image source: wheatfoods.org

image source: wheatfoods.org

Wheat is the basis of just about all holiday baking and recipes! All your favorites share the benefits of wheat. Wheat foods help provide nutrients everyone needs, including B vitamins, fiber, and carbohydrates. It’s important to remember that carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced eating. It can be a real time-saver to pick up items for breakfasts and snacks like muffins, banana bread, and scones – serve it with plain yogurt and fresh fruit for a well-balanced start to your day. Check out WheatFoods.org for versatile recipes like this Chicken Cashew Pasta, which you can serve hot or cold. Or a favorite especially around the holidays, Whole Wheat Spinach Lasagna.  If you have weight concerns, allow yourself to enjoy all foods in moderation and stick to an exercise routine that’s joyful through the holidays and into the New Year.

Sweeten Your Meals, Naturally

California Raisins are a great way to spice up your holiday menus and they offer a unique twist on traditional family favorites. Make them part of your holiday cookie decorating with festive gingerbread cookies freckled with California raisins. Raisins are an ingredient you can feel good about. They are an all-natural, dried-by-the-sun fruit, with no added sugar, no cholesterol and zero fat

Image source: calraisins.org

Image source: calraisins.org

I also love using them in festive side dishes like this Acorn Squash with California Raisins. It’s a beautiful presentation. California Raisins add a natural sweetness to dishes – and with only one ingredient – raisins! Visit LoveYourRaisins.com for these recipes and more!

Now it’s your turn – what are your favorite tips and tricks for holiday entertaining?  Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @ScritchfieldRD.

Disclosure: I was compensated by California Raisins, Wheat Foods Council, Wonderful brands, and Sabra Dipping Company for my work on the TV segment, but was not compensated to write this blog.

#HappyHolidaysChallenge: The Big “O”…Overeating.

Happy Holidays

Hello there! If you’re reading for the first time or just stopping by for the fun, I’m doing a “Happy Holidays” wellness challenge to help you cultivate more health and happiness the rest of 2014. Catch up on the details on how to join and win the prizes. Or if it already sounds like a good idea, sign up below.

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The Big “O”…Overeating.

“I shouldn’t have that!” “There are way too many calories in this!” “I’m going to regret this later.” There is a LOT of opportunity for negative food-related emotions during the holidays. So how do we deal with these moments and get on with enjoying the important part of the holidays: Enjoying time with family and friends?

Accept that You’re Going to Overeat During the Holidays

Last week I talked about guilt related to labeling a food as “good” or “bad”. What about guilt from an even more common occurrence: Overeating. Overeating is one of the biggest food-related concerns of the holidays. It’s basically a given that overeating, to some degree, is going to happen. So how do we eliminate overeating during the holidays? …We don’t! It’s unrealistic, and honestly, unnecessary. Overeating is part of the holiday experience, and as part of human nature, something we enjoy. What we can do, is ensure this occurs in a healthy way.

Source: www.desktopnexus.com

Source: www.desktopnexus.com

You Can Do It Challenge:  Make a truce with yourself right now that you are going to overeat and you are going to savor every bite you choose to take with awareness and gratitude.

Use Mindful Eating to Enjoy Food During the Holidays

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. Mindful eating is being fully present with your food. No matter how much you have.

Here are my tips for mindful eating:

  • Use all your senses. Sight, smell, taste, touch (texture on your tongue).
  • When making your plate, ask what do I really want (not necessarily what is healthiest/you should eat).
  • Make a plate that looks appealing and looks like it will be enough to satisfy you.
  • Enjoy the food by noticing the smell and taste. Comment on what you are enjoying. Ask the chef who prepared the delicious food about anything you might be curious about – how easy or hard was this, what spice do I taste, etc?
  • Chew the food well to break it down for good digestion and to get enough time with the texture of it in your mouth.
  • Enjoy the conversation at the table and the food.
  • Be grateful for ALL the gifts in your life, including the privilege of enjoying the food with the people around you.

Some of the basic principles of intuitive eating are honoring hunger and respecting fullness. When you are paying attention, you will notice those signals your body sends that you are full or still hungry.

But what if I know I’m full, and I still REALLY want that piece of cheesecake I’ve been staring at since dinner started? Go ahead! But use this time to really enjoy that piece of cheesecake, and pay attention to what you’re feeling. The moment you take a bite and it’s not as enjoyable, put your fork down and leave the rest. See [link for mindful eating blog] for more mindful eating tips.

Eat for Yourself, And Nobody Else

Understand you always have choices. Make the ones that feel right to you. Just because Aunt Bea is waving her famous apple pie under your nose, coaxing you to have a piece, doesn’t mean you have to take it if you’re not hungry or you don’t want it right now. Get comfortable with politely saying, some version of “No, Thank you.”

Chances are, they are just trying to be a gracious host, or take care of you. But if that’s not how you feel, if you feel “pressured” to eat to make them happy, sit with that feeling and try one of my techniques.

The goal is to get the other person focused on something other than taking responsibility for your need/desire to eat (which is not their job).

Here are a few of my favorite “polite declines”

  • looks delicious… I’m not hungry now, but I’ll look for it later
  • smells so good… I need to digest a little bit and then I’ll get some
  • wow that looks great! Is it good? I’m full right now, but I’ll try it in a little bit
  • thank you so much… I’m not sure if I want ______ or _____

While this is just my opinion, I believe everyone who tries to respect their body (and fullness) at the present moment and who does not eat for “show” or to make others happy, is actually a happier person.

I promise, at the end of the day, no one is going to get offended you didn’t eat yourself sick. (And if they do, trust me, there is a reason behind it.)

Try these tips for healthfully enjoying overeating during the holidays, and make the choice to leave guilt-ridden eating behind.

Enter to Win

Psst… I’m running a contest on THIS post for healthy meal prep around holiday time. If you like cooking tools, check it out and leave a comment on the post to win.

Check In

How are you doing so far? Leave a comment on the blog or on Facebook. If you’re on Twitter, follow me and the #HappyHolidaysChallenge for even more motivation.

If you’re not “officially” in the challenge yet, what are you waiting for? Sign up below.

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Challenge Your Friends

People do better with support from friends. (It’s a scientific fact!) Ask your friends to join you by sharing on social media or just send them this e-mail with the link to subscribe to the challenge.

Facebook: Join me and Rebecca Scritchfield for a free 60-day wellness challenge.  Get healthier and happier this holiday season. http://wp.me/p2T0R-20c #HappyHolidaysChallenge

Twitter: I’m taking the #HappyHolidaysChallenge with @ScritchfieldRD. Join us http://wp.me/p2T0R-20c

California Walnuts Harvest Tour

DSC_0021

By: Michelle Burton, RD at Capitol Nutrition Group and Rebecca Scritchfield Media, LLC

Last week I had the pleasure of venturing out to Sacramento and the California Central Valley for the California Walnuts Harvest Tour. I experienced the autumn walnut harvest first hand, sampled a number of AMAZING dishes featuring this star ingredient, and learned about new research that’s coming out related to walnuts. I hope you’ll enjoy this brief photo journal of my trip, and that it will inspire you to incorporate walnuts into your everyday!

Walnuts Shaking

Donald Norene, his wife, and his son all took us on a tour of their family’s walnut orchard — Norene Ranches. They have a spectacular 750 acres of his farm dedicated to walnuts. He explained that you know when the walnut trees are ready for shaking when you can throw one on the ground and it’s outer shell comes right off. They showed us the tree shaking live which was very cool. It was wonderful getting to taste fresh walnuts right off the tree.

walnut sweeping

After the walnuts are shaken off the trees, they’re swept into piles, “vacuumed” up, and shuttled to a central location for the next step in their harvest journey — hulling.

walnut hulling

The walnuts arrive at the huller where the green outer shell is removed along with other sticks and debris. Then they’re cleaned, dried, and loaded into trucks to be sent to the local processing plant (which we were also able to tour). It was amazing to see the technology involved with sorting, shelling and packaging the walnuts for commercial distribution.

walnut orchard lunch

Wine & Roses put together a beautiful lunch for us in the orchard featuring a number of dishes that showcased the unique flavor and versatility of walnuts. It started with a caramelized onion, fig and walnut flatbread, followed by a squash, apple and walnut slaw salad, then a walnut quinoa salad with grilled chicken, and the finale was THE best caramel walnut cheesecake that I’ve EVER had. I’ll be sure to share that recipe once I get my hands on it!

walnut cooking demo

We came together again that evening for a food demo by Chef and Owner of Mulvaney’s B&L Restaurant, Patrick Mulvaney. He prepared a roasted chili in walnut sauce, and we dined on a salad of heirloom tomatoes with chunky walnut pesto and fettuccine with walnuts and squash among other fabulous walnut creations. During a nutrition presentation by Registered Dietitian, Heidi Diller, I was intrigued to find out that new research is coming out showing a potential link between walnuts and increased fertility in men. They’re planning to continue research in this area, but definitely some promising information!

Looking to satisfy your walnut craving?

You can find a number of easy and delicious recipes on the California Walnuts website at www.walnuts.org.

 

Disclosure: My attendance at the California Walnuts Harvest Tour was sponsored by California Walnuts, but I was not compensated to write this blog.

Spring into Health

Now that spring is in the air it’s time to turn over a new leaf and shake off those winter blues! Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with CNN’s Karin Caifa to share my ideas on how to make some healthier switches as spring approaches – switches that won’t be too drastic, dramatic or too easy to abandon! Watch the clip below or read on to learn about my tips.

The key to succeeding when making a change is to start small and start simple. The most important thing is being consistent. The more you are consistent these new behaviors they will eventually become habits (good ones). Here are a few tips to help freshen up your eating this spring.

  • Add any fresh produce to your menu. You can’t mess it up. Spring is a great time of year for fresh apricots, cherries, kiwi, grapefruit, swiss chard, green beans and all types of lettuces.
  • Add herbs and spices to help make healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains more flavorful without adding salt, sugar, or fat.
  • As the weather gets warmer, eat more cold foods like salads with fresh fruits, lean meats or tofu, and beans. Make your own dressing with herbs and spices, olive oil, and vinegar.
  • It’s not too early to fire up your grill for a flavor boost without added salt and fat. Grill vegetables and lean meats like fish, chicken, or beef seasoned with herbs and spices. Check out these delicious grilling recipes: Asian Turkey Burgers or Grilled Tofu with Ratatouille Vegetables 

Don’t forget about Spring Cleaning!

  • The first thing you should do to eat healthier is “spring clean your kitchen” to make cooking easier.
  • Make room in your refrigerator for new fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods you can make ahead of time.
  • Refresh your pantry by stocking up on herbs and spices that will allow you to flavor your foods without adding extra salt, sugar, and fat.
  • Add some nutritious canned foods like beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, and canned tuna and salmon to help you get healthy meals on the table quickly.
  • Simplify cooking. You don’t need to prepare a 3 course meal every night! Try this easy and healthy Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli as a delicious side dish.

What should we spring clean out of our diets?

  •  Reduce your intake of “empty calorie” foods and beverages, such as desserts, sugary drinks, and alcoholic beverages.
  •  Swap fresh fruits like citrus and berries, which are in season for desserts. I love freezing sliced bananas or a handful of grapes for a sorbet or ice cream substitute.
  • Drink water or sparkling water infused with mint, fresh cucumber, or lemon instead of caloric beverages.
  • Cut back on sodium by preparing your meal at home and checking food labels for hidden sources of salt.
  • Sauces, seasonings, and marinades can be high in sodium. Try making your own with herbs, spices, citrus, vinegar, and healthy oils.
  • Avoid higher calorie fried foods and rich foods, which tend to be difficult to digest and make you feel sluggish. Instead, grill your vegetables and lean proteins, which will add flavor.

What are some of your favorite spring time foods and activities?

Leave a comment below and share your spring time tips with us! Happy Spring!

 

 

Produce of the Day: Citrus

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Citrus

Nothing brightens up a dreary March day like a pop of vibrant citrus – its bright color and fresh flavor help remedy most cases of late-winter funk.  One bite of a juicy tangerine immediately gets me dreaming of sunshine and citrus groves, which is just what I need when there is still snow on the ground!

Image Source: White on Rice

Image Source: whiteonricecouple.com

One of the things that I love about citrus is that there are so many varieties – each one has its own unique flavor and appearance.  What they do have in common is their nutritional profile; citrus is a healthy choice no matter which variety you pick.

Here are some health benefits associated with all citrus fruits:

Vitamin C

Image Source: http://www.thejournal.ie

Image Source: thejournal.ie

We all know that oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, but what does that really mean?  Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, so it helps protect our cells from damaging free radicals.  Free radicals can alter our cells’ structure and even their DNA, which could lead to inflammation or cancer.  Protecting our cells with antioxidants like Vitamin C is key in keeping them healthy.

Vitamin C also contributes to a healthy immune system and strong bones and muscles.  Additionally, Vitamin C can improve iron absorption, so it’s vital for anyone with an iron deficiency.  One serving of citrus provides at least 100% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C.

Heart Health

A diet rich in citrus fruits has been shown to offer protection against cardiovascular disease.  Citrus contains:

  • Folate, a B Vitamin found lower risk of heart disease.
  • Potassium, which lowers blood pressure and helps prevent stroke.
  • Flavonoids and carotenes, phytonutrients shown to improve cardiovascular health
  • Fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol

Citrus has also been linked to the prevention of arthritis, improved blood glucose control, reduced risk of kidney stones, and many other positive health benefits.

Source: www.eatingwell.com

Source: eatingwell.com

With so many citrus fruits available, you’ll never get bored!  Here’s low down on a few options and a few tips to use them to make half your plate produce:

Oranges

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the world.  They’re great fresh out of hand, added to salads, or as part of a fresh salsa. You can also:

  • Snack on them after a workout  to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes (anyone remember orange slices after soccer practice?)
  • Try orange segments instead of juice with breakfast; when you juice you lose all the heart-healthy fiber and some nutrients.
  • Serve these Snow Peas with Orange and Jicama as a side dish with your favorite protein.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit’s Latin name is Citrus paradisi, a fitting name given that its taste, aroma, and gem-like fruit conjure pictures of paradise.  Red and pink grapefruits are rich in lycopene, a phytonutrient that is shown to protect against the formation of tumors.

Grapefruit “brulee” makes a fabulous dessert or breakfast.  To make, just slice in half and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Let the sugar caramelize under the broiler for a seemingly decadent treat.

Tangerine

I love how portable tangerines are; they come in their own natural wrapper!  I like to keep some handy in my purse in case my one-year old or I get hungry while we’re on-the-go.  They have a looser peel than most other citrus, so they’re ideal in a pinch.

Tangerines are also great in recipes. I like this Warm Chicken Salad with Tangerine, Tarragon, and Arugula for lunch or a light supper.

Image Source: www.sunkist.com

Image Source: Sunkist.com

Lemons

These bright yellow fruits add loads of tangy flavor with very few calories.  I recommend that my clients try seasoning with lemons instead of salt to reduce their sodium intakes.

Add their zest to steamed veggies, use their juice in salad dressing, or even just throw them in your water to give it some zing.  Meyer lemons are an interesting variety of lemon with beautiful floral undertones that are wonderful in desserts.

Limes

You know the term, “limey”?  It actually comes from British sailors in the 1800s who added lime juice to their rum while they were at sea to prevent scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency).

I like to add lime juice to marinades, guacamole, and dressings. It also adds zippy flavor to roasted veggies – just roast them in the oven and add fresh lime juice and zest.  Makes a great side dish or salad addition.

Kumquats

These little guys are known as the, “little gold gems” of the citrus family.  What make them so interesting is that, unlike most citrus, their rinds are sweet while the flesh is very tart.  Slice them up (skin and all) and toss them in a salad or try them in this Citrus Habenero Salsa with fish or chicken.

Image Source: http://blog.needsupply.com

Image Source: blog.needsupply.com

Learn More about Citrus

If you want more citrus info, Sunkist is a great resource. Check out their website and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add citrus into your diet? Did I miss any of your favorite varieties? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)