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Ask the Chef: Tips for eating healthy during the holidays

Dear Chef Coco,

I find with all the festivities during the holiday season, I find it hard to stay on the healthy eating zone. Any tips for a single guy who wants to enjoy the season and still stay healthy?

Joe S.

Dear Joe,

Holidays are a tough time to stay in the healthy eating zone. Between time crunched days because of shopping and holiday parties we are often set up to fail and just eat that cookie because it's available. Here are a few tips to help us all stay on track during the frantic rush.

1. Have a game plan for "There ain't no way I'm cooking tonight" times.

It's easy to reach for the frozen pizza on these days. And with 3rd party delivery services abound, you can just app it out for delivery. Remember these days of empty calories add up quickly. Have a stock pile of soups and entrees in the freezer that you would want to eat at a moment's notice. I make a big pot of Red Curry Tomato Soup and put it in containers to pull out on demand. I can add cooked meat or beans to it or a salad to make it a full meal in a instant.

Stock the freezer with components.

When I was single I kept a 5 pound bag of frozen stir fry vegetables, 5 pound bag of frozen raw peeled shrimp and a case of ramen noodles on hand in the freezer. When I came home late from work, I could have dinner in 10 minutes by using these ingredients. I ditched the ramen spice packet, added my own soy and seasonings and was able to sit down to a big filling bowl of goodness.


2. Instead of going out to eat or for a drink with friends,Take a walk and have a coffee. Everyone needs more exercise and also needs to connect with family and friends. Why not kill 2 birds with one stone? Getting together for coffee doesn't usually last as long as cocktails which most times includes crispy snacks for me.

3. Practice mindful eating and plan- Slow down and enjoy your plate of food. Savor that delicious cookie, eat slowly. Also don't let the clock dictate when you eat, do it when you are truly hungry. If you think you will get caught without food during the day, bring a bag of non perishable snacks with you so you won't get too hungry on the run. Being a mostly plant based eater, I am always carrying my food with me.Portioning it out the night before keeps me from getting stressed in the morning when I am trying to get out the door.

5. Avoid food poisoning- Do not let cooked or ready to eat food sit out for more than 2 hours on the counter. Do not thaw anything on the counter. Eat those leftovers in the fridge from the restaurant within a couple of days.

If you cook a pot of soup or chili, break it down into smaller portions and chill right away.

Don't keep food more than 7 days even if it's been in the fridge. Stay away from the kitchen if you feel ill. Some viruses are highly contagious and if you have one you can pass it on in a matter of hours.

6. Take your vitamins and supplements- With the sun hiding during the winter months, it's a great time to take vitamin D. A good multi vitamin will help you stay healthy all year long.

7. Take time to meal prep- Sundays are a good day to prep. You can check out the local grocery store flyers and stock up. Cook big dishes that can be spun into other dishes during the week. Clean and chop vegetables so they will be ready to eat or cook right away. The internet is loaded with meal prep sites that can help you manage a big cooking day with success.

8. Find a way to eat more vegetables- Eating a frozen Pizza? Throw extra vegetables on it midway through cooking, better yet, buy a cauliflower pizza crust and make your own toppings and sauce. Put stir fry on the menu at least once a week. Have one meatless meal that is built around vegetables every week. Keep a big inventory of vegetable soup on hand for lunches. Having them prepped and ready make it easier to eat. Sometimes all you need is a nudge.

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