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Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, October 26 and 27, 2013
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Ready, Set…Gobble!

Here it comes! Holiday shopping and decorating. Food. Planning family get-togethers. Food. Remembering the historical meaning of holidays. Food! All of a sudden food is everywhere, which can cause anxiety about our waistlines. Because of juggling family schedules, some years I've attended three Thanksgiving meals and two Christmas feasts! Not to mention the office parties and holiday luncheons with friends. There's also the pressure to sample: you can’t refuse your mother-in-law’s special once-a-year stuffing and pecan pie but you also can’t forget that two days ago you munched plate after plate of canapés at the office party. Try these strategies to help survive holiday noshing:

Be mindful. The easiest way to put on weight is to abandon all self-control. Everything that enters your mouth counts! By all means, enjoy the peppermint brownies your coworker has baked but take one square back to your desk and savor each bite slowly. If there are several treats laying out, cut off a small piece of what looks best for a mini-tasting. If you're at a sit-down meal, create a full plate taking a little of each dish (so the cook feels appreciated) and chew slowly (relishing each bite and lavishing the chef with compliments for good measure) while chatting away with other guests; this leaves less time for plate refills.

Eat healthfully otherwise. Expect many calorie-laden eating opportunities, so fill up on healthful foods the rest of the time: high-fiber whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fish and lean meats. Limit sweets and high calorie snacks, banking those calories for the special treats offered at holiday events.

Exercise. Holidays can be stressful but try to stick to your exercise routine. Exercise can help alleviate stress and keep your metabolism in top shape so you don’t feel as sluggish after eating those extra calories.

Forgive. Do the best you can, but if you gain a few pounds don’t become discouraged and eat everything in sight. That will only harm your body. If you overeat, balance that by refueling your body with the healthful foods mentioned above and continue to exercise. In no time you will feel great again! 

This rich feast from Wandering Chopsticks reminded me of my Thanksgivings growing up - Asian style!

On another note, here are some food safety reminders from the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals if you’re cooking up a big bird this year.

Thawing Time in the Refrigerator

Size of Turkey/Number of Days

4 to 12 pounds:  1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds:  3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds:  4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds:  5 to 6 days

Note: You can refrigerate a thawed turkey for 1-2 days.

Thawing Time in Cold Water

Size of Turkey/Hours to Defrost

4 to 12 pounds:  2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds:  6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds:  8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds:  10 to 12 hours

Note: It is recommended to change the water every 30 minutes.  

More Tips

  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. A whole turkey is safe cooked to a minimum of 165°F. Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The stuffing should also reach 165°F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.
  • Bacteria can be swimming in the gravy. Remember to bring the gravy to a boil when first preparing it and again when reheating the sauce to enjoy the leftovers.


Salivating over Tofu and Quinoa

Here are a couple of blogs that inspired me recently!

Thanks Amateur Nutritionist for a great recipe new to me: baked tofu! What a fabulous idea for a nutritious ingredient that is unfortunately, in its natural state, bland and mushy. But this particular idea, modified from an Eating Well recipe, is a fast easy way to infuse a burst of bright flavor into tofu. It's easy to eat too, served like a burger with lettuce and tomato. I changed the marinade ingredients from the original recipe to a tablespoon each of Hoisin sauce and honey. Make sure to toast up the bread (I used Arnold Sandwich Thins). The only downfall is that it’s not too filling so you may need to add mayo or a slice of cheese, or serve it with pasta salad or a hearty soup. I ate this sandwich three days in a row, it was so good!


Hapa Bento is a fun site I stumbled onto with gorgeous photos (when you’re salivating over shredded carrots and quinoa the pics have to be pretty amazing!). The entire site is devoted to bento boxes, Japanese-style lunch boxes that are traditionally filled with rice, meat or fish, and pickled vegetables. Kind of a hip-ified version of the TV dinner although these have long been a mainstay of Japanese diets. The Americanized version has no limits, using whatever ingredients you have handy, but retaining the extra care and creativity needed. Instead of an everyday packed lunch for your child of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a side of broccoli and carrots, and apple wedges, a bento box might present the same ingredients as slices of turkey and carved apples decorated into Mickey Mouse placed on an artfully arranged pattern of carrots and broccoli. I love this concept because it makes us take the time to prepare and appreciate food ingredients, offers portion control, and feels like a luxury to eat such beautifully crafted healthful food so you savor it more.



Not Got Chocolate Milk?

There’s an issue going on that I’m not even sure why it’s an issue. Chocolate milk is being banned from some school lunch programs. We know America’s adults are obese, but now that our children are also obese has caused some counties to declare all-out war against the condition. But blame low fat chocolate milk? Come on!

All milk is an excellent source of protein and calcium. A cup of low fat chocolate milk contains about 150-160 calories, 3 grams fat, and 25 grams sugar. Depending on the brand, it may also be fortified with a significant amount of iron and vitamin D. Plain low fat milk contains 110 calories, 3 grams fat, and 12 grams sugar. So, yes, there is more sugar in flavored milk but the potential trade-off is that certain kids may choose milk because it is flavored. "Certain kids" meaning those who wouldn't drink plain milk and might reach for soda instead.   

It’s pretty hard to get enough calcium and vitamin D from food. In fact, most adults use supplements to meet those nutrient needs. Those nutrients are even more important in kids and teens because bones are actively growing and storing minerals to make lifelong strong bones. After the mid 20s, the body dramatically slows down in storing those minerals. I say yes to chocolate milk especially if it replaces other beverages filled with sugar but little else. I don’t view chocolate milk as I do chocolate cookies or chocolate candies. I see it like Honey Nut Cheerios or Raisin Bran or Dannon Strawberry Yogurthealthful food with some added sugar. The nutritional benefits outweigh the small amount of extra calories. Sugar is not a diet evil; it should definitely be limited, but controlled amounts can greatly increase our eating pleasure.  

The bottom line is that chocolate milk isn’t a necessity in school lunch programs and I doubt kids’ calcium intakes will drop dramatically without it, but I do believe it can help increase some kids’ overall calcium intakes and may even help satisfy a sweets craving that would otherwise be fulfilled by eating higher calorie chocolate bars and cookies. Hopefully the fight against childhood obesity will focus on more meaningful issues like supporting quality physical education programs and nutrition classes. For more info, click on the links below.