Keep healthy meals simple with this pumpkin soup. It comes together in less than 30 minutes. It’s lower in sodium than most canned soups, and it’s packed with vitamin-rich pumpkin and flavorful herbs and spices.
Yield: 3 servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
½ tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1/8 to ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/8 tsp poultry seasoning
15 oz. canned pumpkin puree
2 cups no salt added chicken or vegetable stock
¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary for garnish (optional)
In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the paprika, cayenne pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook for 30 seconds.
Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Continue to stir until pumpkin and stock are combined. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. You can also transfer the soup to a blender and puree.
Increase the heat back to medium-high. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and black pepper and serve with a sprig of rosemary for garnish.
Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 89; Total Fat 2.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.3 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 275 mg; Carbohydrate 14.1 g; Fiber 6.3 g; Sugar 5.8 g; Protein 4 g
The holidays are meant to be celebrated with delicious foods, but too much celebrating can deter you from your fitness goals. Make the season more nutritious with a few simple steps that will lighten up holiday meals.
Go Heavy on the Herbs and Spices
It’s easy to turn to butter, cream, and salt to flavor food. While these ingredients in moderation can fit into a healthy diet, you can save yourself hundreds of calories by turning to herbs and spices for flavor. Fresh thyme, rosemary and a little garlic mixed into mashed potatoes can help you reduce the salt and butter while still keeping it delicious. For sweeter dishes, like sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce, add cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. The more flavorful the dish, the less sugar or butter you will need to add to make it satisfying.
Keep Things Simple
The more options that are available, the more foods you are going to want to try, whether you are truly hungry or not. Pick a few favorites and keep it simple. Despite the fact that these foods may be higher in calories, you can still follow a healthy eating plan when it comes to nutrients and food groups. Make sure you have protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fat and plenty of vegetables. Serve appropriate portion sizes to limit calories. Also cut fat and calories by keeping preparations simple. Roasted root vegetables and dark leafy greens are the perfect side dishes for a holiday meal. Balance healthy, simple recipes with the heavier holiday favorites.
Make Easy Swaps
There are simple swaps you can make that will save calories, sodium, and saturated fat. If you snack on nuts with pre-dinner cocktails, add in some unsalted, raw varieties. For recipes that call for butter when sautéing, try substituting half or all of it with olive oil. Add pureed fruits like banana, applesauce, or fresh pineapple to naturally sweeten recipes like sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, or baked goods like muffins. Use whole grain bread in stuffing and choose whole grain rolls. When making cream sauces, try substituting some of the cream with unsalted chicken or vegetable stock. They will thicken in a similar way and once it’s mixed into casseroles, it’s difficult to tell the difference.
A moderate amount of stress is motivating, but it can quickly increase and have a negative impact on health. While you can't always cut out stress completely, controlling stress and incorporating activities that reduce it are key to maintaining good health.
Find a Pet
From petting a dog to watching fish swim in an aquarium, animals have been shown to have a calming effect on humans. It doesn't have to be your pet, visit a neighbor or spend some time with the office cat. Research shows that as little as five minutes of interaction can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Pets have also been found to improve heart health by reducing risk factors for heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure. Time with pets has also been found to decrease depression and lower anxiety.
Meditate for Five Minutes
Meditation doesn't take a big time commitment. Simple, deep breathing and clearing your mind for a few minutes can calm you. Regular meditation has been shown to lower heart rate, promote normal blood pressure, and reduce levels of stress hormones. It also helps to clear your mind, which can lead to creativity. Set a timer, sit quietly in a place with no distractions, breath deeply, and relax.
Think About Your Happy Place
A short meditation practice, called visualization, can distract you from a stressful situation and has been found to promote muscle relaxation. Thinking about a peaceful scene in nature or at the beach, or even picturing yourself accomplishing a goal, are all forms of visualization. Simply meditate on your personal happy place. If you don’t know where to start, guided visualization can help. Listen to a CD or find an app for your Smartphone. It only takes a few minutes and guided visualization has been found to decrease blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones.
Laughing is unlike other methods for reducing stress because it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, an increase in breathing rate sends more oxygen to the muscles. It’s a response similar to what happens when you exercise. Once the laughing ends and your breathing and heart rate return to normal, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized.
If you want the holiday flavors without the refined carbohydrates and excess sodium, give this shredded Brussels sprouts salad a try. It uses similar seasonings as your favorite holiday stuffing, but it is loaded with healthy vegetables for more nutrients and fiber.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
2 slices whole wheat bread, cubed (about 1 cup)
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tsp olive oil
¼ tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced onion
¼ cup diced celery
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, shredded or thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped raw pecans
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
2 tbsp diced dried cranberries
To make the croutons, preheat the broiler to high and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Add bread cubes, cheese, 1 ½ teaspoons of olive oil, garlic powder and black pepper to a medium bowl. Stir well to coat the bread with the oil and other ingredients.
Spread in single layer on the baking sheet. Broil for about 1 minute, stir and broil for about 1 more minute, until browned and crisp. Set aside.
Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 2 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the celery and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and cook for 3 to 5 more minutes, until they reach your desired softness. Stir in the pecans, poultry seasoning and sea salt, and cook for 30 more seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries. Serve warm, topped with the croutons.
Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 195; Total Fat 10.1 g; Saturated Fat 1.3 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 1 mg; Sodium 291 mg; Carbohydrate 23.7 g; Fiber 5.6 g; Sugar 6.8 g; Protein 6 g
While it’s okay to reduce your exercise time during the busy holiday season, completely cutting out your workouts is a big mistake. Not only will you lose the fitness gains you've worked so hard for, exercise helps reduce holiday-related tension and stress.
Add 20 minutes to your day
An effective circuit or high intensity interval workout takes 20 minutes or less. Waking up a few minutes early or delegating some things on your to-do list can open up a window of time that allows you to sneak in a workout.
Never pass up an opportunity to move
Now is the time to recommit to those little things that add activity to your day. Always take the stairs, walk to deliver messages, complete errands on foot, and work in a set of squats while dinner is in the oven. These simple activities may not seem like much, but the short bursts of movement help refresh your energy levels and boost calories burned.
Create outdoor holiday traditions
While extreme weather can hinder outdoor activities, brisk temperatures, even a little snow, shouldn't prevent you from getting outside. Sign up as a family to walk or jog a local Turkey Trot, a Jingle Bell Walk, or a New Years Eve 5K. Toss the football outside after dinner, have a snowman building competition, or bundle up and go for a walk to view holiday decorations. Planning these activities allows you to get in a workout without taking time away from friends and family.
Trade mindless activities
Even on the busiest days, it’s easy to lose minutes to mindless activities like surfing the Internet, updating your social media status, or watching television. While mental breaks are necessary, these minutes can add up and take away from time you could spend exercising. A quick circuit of lunges, push-ups, and crunches will be better for your physical health than 10 unproductive minutes spent on the computer or watching television.