Ways to Overcome the Winter Blues

Ways to Overcome the Winter Blues

As the days shorten in the winter, some of us get a case of the winter blues. It’s called seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a form of mild depression during the fall and winter that isn’t present other times of year. It’s estimated that some form of SAD affects about 25 percent of the population.

SAD can leave you feeling irritable and anxious while disrupting sleep and zapping energy. Feeling down can lead to emotional eating and rob you of the motivation to get moving. While light therapy and medication may be appropriate for severe cases, there are a few changes you can make to your daily routine that will help reduce the effects of SAD.

Let in the light.

Symptoms of SAD are linked to reduced sunlight due to shorter, cloudy days. Open blinds and curtains throughout your home to let in more light. Move your workspace to a room with the most windows. Sit close to windows whether you are dining out or reading a book at home. Take notice of bushes and trees that may block your windows from sunlight. Trim or remove those objects to improve the brightness of your environment.

Bundle up and get outside.

Despite gray skies, getting outside can brighten your mood and improve your attitude. Bundle up for a cold weather workout whenever possible. Take short breaks throughout the day to step outside and expose yourself to sunlight. Even a short 10 minute walk at lunch can help.

Stick to your workouts.

Studies show that regular exercise can benefit all forms of depression, including SAD. It can be challenging to overcome tiredness and feelings of sadness, but regular workouts help to relieve stress and anxiety. Improving your fitness brightens your mood and outlook, which can help offset the symptoms of SAD.

Turkey Meatballs with Polenta

Your favorite comfort foods can be made healthier when you cook them at home. Ground turkey breast is used in this recipe for a leaner source of protein with less saturated fat than traditional meatballs. Homemade sauce and polenta allows you to cut the sodium content nearly in half when compared to other versions.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes



½ tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup diced onion

2 (14 oz.) cans no salt added, diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


1 lb. ground turkey breast

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


2 cups water

½ cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

Shredded parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil for garnish


To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, sugar and pepper. Let simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Remove from the heat, and use an immersion blender to carefully puree the tomatoes into a chunky sauce. Return to low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 to 30 minutes while you make the rest of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground turkey with all the herbs and spices.

Form into 16 meatballs and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the meatballs once halfway through baking. The meatballs should be cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. While the meatballs bake, make the polenta.

For the polenta, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the cornmeal until smooth. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.

To serve, divide the polenta among 4 shallow serving bowls. Place 4 meatballs on top of or next to the polenta, and cover the meatballs with ¼ of the sauce (use less sauce, if desired). Garnish with cheese and basil.

Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 260; Total Fat 3.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 71 mg; Sodium 599 mg; Carbohydrate 27.1 g; Fiber 5.6 g; Sugar 8.4 g; Protein 32.2 g; Vitamin A 1110 IU; Vitamin C 17.4 mg; Calcium 73 mg; Iron 2.0 mg

Healthier Choices at Thanksgiving

Healthier Choices at Thanksgiving

There is no avoiding the temptation of holiday foods. While it may seem that everything is loaded with calories, unhealthy fat, and sugar, even a small effort to pick something more nutritious can make a big difference. Use these tips to help you navigate the food table and make healthier choices at Thanksgiving.

Roasted Turkey vs. Fried Turkey

Choosing roasted turkey saves both calories and fat. When making roasted turkey, healthier fats, such as olive oil, and fresh herbs are used to give the meat flavor. In fried turkey, additional flavors come from the fat used during frying. Frying foods uses refined oils and, because the bird is left in contact with the oil, there is more fat per serving. Whichever turkey you choose, stick with the white meat for a leaner source of protein.

Vegetables vs. Casseroles

Casseroles are notorious for unhealthy ingredients such as high-sodium canned soups and high-fat processed cheeses. Choosing roasted or sauteed vegetables that have not been doused with butter or cream sauces will save you calories and saturated fat.

Mashed Potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes

While sweet potatoes are more nutritious than white potatoes, the large amount of butter in sweet potato casserole makes it not much better for you than mashed white potatoes. Traditional holiday preparations of sweet potatoes are also plagued with added sugar in the form of brown sugar, syrup, or marshmallows. Make sweet potatoes your dessert or skip them altogether. If you are preparing the sweet potatoes, make them healthier by blending the potatoes with low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock in place of the excess butter and cream.

Fresh Cranberry Relish vs. Cranberry Sauce

Fresh cranberries can be chopped in a food processor with ingredients like orange juice, orange zest, herbs, and unsalted nuts for an easy relish or cranberry salsa. A sprinkle of sugar will tame the tartness and allow you to consume much less than what is found in a traditional cranberry sauce.

Rolls vs. Biscuits and Muffins

Most rolls are simply made with yeast, water, flour, and salt. They don’t become high in fat or sugar until butter or honey is added at the table. Whole grain rolls can even provide a little fiber to your meal. Similar offerings, such as cheese biscuits and corn muffins, have extra fat due to butter and eggs. If you don’t want to skip this side altogether, choose a whole grain roll over other options.

Pumpkin Pie vs. Pecan Pie

The nuts, syrup, and butter in pecan pie causes both the calories and fat content to soar. While pumpkin pie still contains fat and sugar, it is a lower calorie choice. You can save even more calories by choosing a crustless pumpkin pie or stick with a simple pumpkin pudding.

Spritzers vs. Cocktails

Spritzers are made by adding club soda to an ounce or two of 100% fruit juice. It makes a festive drink without excess calories from alcohol. If you do choose to have an alcoholic drink, use club sodas and flavored, unsweetened sparkling waters to your advantage. Make a white wine spritzer, or use sparkling beverages to top off your drink instead of using high-sugar, pre-made cocktail mixers.

Healthy Ways to Prepare for a Holiday Meal

Healthy Ways to Prepare for a Holiday Meal

Commit to a morning workout

There is no reason to miss out on holiday meals. Your eating and exercise patterns leading up to a big celebration can allow you to enjoy special foods and drinks without ruining your fitness plan.

Commit to your morning workout.

The calories burned during exercise add up to offset the extra calories you eat. Sticking with your workouts helps control weight gain during the holiday season. Don’t skip workouts on the days you have planned celebrations. Also avoid putting off exercise until later in the day. It’s much too easy for last-minute invitations or errands to steal the time you’d planned to spend at the gym. A morning workout will guarantee you fit it in.

Lighten up for a few days.

Lightening up doesn’t mean skipping meals to prepare for overeating. It does mean making smart food choices that are satisfying and dense in nutrients. Choose more fruits, vegetables and lean protein to get the nutrients you need and to keep you feeling full. Limiting carbohydrates and fat will give you more wiggle room in your eating plan to enjoy favorite holiday foods.

Keep stress to a minimum.

You can’t avoid stress completely, but you can take steps to control how you react to stressful situations. You might be nervous to attend a party or feel overwhelmed with all you have to do. These feelings can lead to overeating. Stress also impacts sleep in a way that can lead to hormonal imbalances, hunger, and cravings. Identify what is stressing you out, and take steps to resolve it. Incorporate stress-relieving activities like meditation and regular exercise.

Set boundaries.

Don’t go to a party or attend a dinner buffet without giving some thought to your game plan. Set rules for yourself and stick to them. Enjoy one cocktail, choose dessert over an appetizer, or skip the dinner rolls and have a small scoop of mashed potatoes. By creating balance with your meal and making trade-offs for those things you want to enjoy, you can stay in control of your calorie intake and weight loss.

Mushroom and Brown Rice Stuffing

Mushroom and Brown Rice Stuffing Recipe

Stuffing is a traditional holiday dish that is often loaded with refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fat. This version has the familiar flavors, but replaces some of the bread with lower-calorie, protein-rich mushrooms and brown rice for extra fiber.

Yield: 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes


1 tbsp olive oil

¾ cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups sliced white button mushrooms

3 ½ cups whole grain bread cubes

1 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup cooked brown rice

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ tsp poultry seasoning

½ tsp fine ground sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper


In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 to 7 more minutes, until all vegetables are browned and softened.

Reduce the heat to low and add the bread cubes. Pour in the stock and stir to saturate the bread, breaking it up into small pieces. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking dish, about 10 x 7 inches, with non-stick cooking spray.

Stir the cooked rice, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper into the skillet.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish and press firmly to smooth the surface. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and edges are crisp. Serve warm.

Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 156; Total Fat 3.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 272 mg; Carbohydrate 26.3 g; Fiber 3.5 g; Sugar 4.7 g; Protein 5.7 g; Vitamin A 214 IU; Vitamin C 5.9 mg; Calcium 45 mg; Iron 1.8 mg

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