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Five Tips for Healthy Holiday Meals During COVID-19 (You Can Still Have Carbs!)

Exercise and Nutrition
Author name: Ashley Lovetere, Lee Health Registered Dietitian

As we approach the end of 2020, we come to some of our favorite holidays of the year. First up, Thanksgiving.

This year might look a little different as we try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we can do our best to make it just as festive. For some, we may feel anxious about making healthful food choices during the holidays.

Here are five tips to keep you on track this holiday season:

  • Keep a balanced plate. Review MyPlate guidelines to help you stay balanced. Fill your plate with a variety of colors. Make sure to have protein, carbohydrates, fruits or vegetables on your plate. Don’t avoid carbohydrates, either. They provide us healthful benefits such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Also, go ahead and indulge your favorite Thanksgiving food before the holiday. If you can’t wait to have grandma’s sweet potato casserole, satisfy your craving. It’s okay.
  • Choose the dessert you typically have during the holidays. For example, have pumpkin pie instead of sugar cookies.
  • If you’re unable to have a large gathering as in previous years, you don’t need to bake large portions. Reduce the ingredients by half or if you cook as usual, freeze half for tasty, easily prepared meals.
  • Keep your exercise up! If you’re too busy for your 30-minute typical exercise routine, split it up into three- and 10-minute sessions. Use the oven or microwave timer to get in a few minutes of jumping jacks, squats or wall push-ups.

Remember, the holiday season only comes once a year. Don’t beat yourself up if you indulge more than you anticipated. One meal won’t destroy your health goals.

Some Recipe Ideas

Here are a few recipe ideas to help you through the season:

Maple Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves: 6

Recipe from Lee Health’s Teaching Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • Frozen will not work
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2  tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Spread butternut squash cubes out on the baking sheet. Drizzle evenly with olive oil then sprinkle with ground cinnamon, salt, pepper and maple syrup. Toss all the ingredients together, using tongs or your hands, ensuring all the cubes are coated.
  4. Place in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes (rotating pan if necessary half-way) until squash is tender. Remove from oven and serve immediately or allow to cool.

Pomegranate-Glazed Green Beans

Servings: 6

Recipe adopted from Taste of Home Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven, place steamer basket over 1 in. of water. Place green beans in basket. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; steam, covered, 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender.
  2. In a large skillet, combine orange juice, pomegranate juice, butter, vinegar, syrup, orange zest and seasonings. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in cranberries. Add beans and toss to coat.

Ashley Lovetere, RD, was born and raised in Maryland. She completed her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama and finished her dietetic internship with master’s degree at the University of Southern Mississippi.

A registered dietitian, Ashley works for Lee Health as an outpatient dietitian participating in many outreach events and teaching cooking classes. Ashley loves helping people learn how to prepare delicious, well balanced meals to promote overall health.

In her free time you’ll find Ashley spending time with her dog Lois Lane, digging cooking magazines…and, of course, watching college football with her husband.

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