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Pass the Potatoes, Forget the Guilt: Tips to Avoid Diet Stress This Holiday

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


Food stress photo

Our favorite holidays are coming up as we approach the end of 2022. And that means, of course, indulging in rich and wonderful meals we typically don’t enjoy at any other time of the year.

But for some us, anxiety about food and overeating can take the shine off the holiday.

Lee Health Registered Dietitian Ashley Lovetere weighs in with some practical advice and tips to help us make healthful food choices yet still enjoy indulge in our favorite foods—without feeling guilty.

Put away your scale: All that social and media attention on gaining weight during the holidays? Ignore them. Stay off the scale, too. The holidays are not the time of year to monitor your weight every day.

Your weight can go up and down by as much as five pounds in a single day because of sweating, breathing, using the bathroom, eating, and drinking, and more. It’s normal. Ignore the scale and enjoy time with friends, family and, most importantly, yourself!

Avoid diet talk in group settings. Different diets work for different people. If someone tries to push a new fad diet while you’re in the middle of enjoying a meal, kindly change the subject. The topic may unintentionally make someone at the table feel guilty for what they are eating.

Start your day strong. Don’t skip breakfast! When you start off Thursday’s big feast starving, you’re likely to overindulge and feel uncomfortable the rest of the day.

Choose foods that excite you. Don’t make any holiday foods off limits. Thanksgiving only comes once a year, don’t skip the foods you most enjoy because you think it’s “unhealthy.”

Remember to take care of yourself. Fuel your body, get plenty of sleep and find time to engage in physical activities. If we deprive ourselves to instead serve others, we end up confusing our hunger and fullness cues, which can put us into mindless eating.

Healthy Holiday Recipes

Fresh Pear Ginger Crisp-Taste of Home

TOTAL TIME: Preparation: 15 minutes + chilling bake: 35 minutes

YIELD: 9 servings.

ginger crisp photo


  • 1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (about 20 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 7 medium pears (about 2-1/2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Vanilla ice cream, optional


  1. In a small bowl, combine the first six ingredients. With clean hands, work butter into oat mixture until well combined. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Place pears in a small bowl; add flour and toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 8-in. square baking dish; sprinkle with oat mixture.
  3. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender. Serve warm, with ice cream if desired.

Simple Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts (by Mark Bittman)

TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes

YIELD: 4 servings

brussel sprouts photo


  • 1 pint brussel sprouts (about a pound)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to coat bottom of pan
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom of brussel sprouts, and slice each in half top to bottom.
  2. Heat oil in cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers; put sprouts cut side down in one layer in pan. Put in garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook, undisturbed, until sprouts begin to brown on bottom, and transfer to oven.
  4. Roast, shaking pan every 5 minutes, until sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 10-20 minutes.
  5. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in balsamic vinegar, and serve hot or warm.

Cranberry Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sauce (Taste of Home Magazine)

(Great for leftover cranberries and walnuts)

TOTAL TIME: Preparation: 30 minutes + standing cook: 15 minutes

YIELD: 8 servings.

ricotta gnocchi photo


  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, divided
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper


  1. Finely chop 1/4 cup cranberries. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, flour, Parmesan cheese, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and chopped cranberries; mix until blended. On a lightly floured surface, knead 10-12 times, forming a soft dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Divide dough into 4 portions. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 3/4-in.-thick rope; cut into 3/4-in. pieces. Press and roll each piece with a lightly floured fork.
  3. In a Dutch oven, bring 4 qt. water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in batches 30-60 seconds or until they float. Remove with a slotted spoon; keep warm.
  4. In a large heavy saucepan, cook butter over medium heat 5 minutes. Add sage; cook 3-5 minutes longer or until butter is golden brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in walnuts, white pepper, and the remaining cranberries and salt. Add gnocchi; stir gently to coat.

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