December swirls by with party after party after potluck dinner after family gathering in a whirlwind of sausage balls, cheese balls, bourbon balls and all manner of delicious spherical food.
And by the time the halls are undecked of their boughs of holly next month, most of us will be left with an extra five pounds to go along with our fond memories. “Every year Americans typically gain around five pounds during the holidays,” says Carmen Long, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent for family and consumer education in Surry and Alleghany counties.
“Not exactly the gift we want to give ourselves, especially considering that the majority of people don’t lose the extra weight after the holidays,” adds Long. “We know this is not the time of year to try to lose weight, but maintaining is a goal.”
Kelly Whittington has been fighting this trend with a holiday challenge that is part of “Eat Smart, Move More,” a partnership program between NC State University and the North Carolina Division of Public Health.
Rather than focusing on trying to lose weight, “the goal is to maintain, not gain,” says Whittington, a nurse and certified diabetes instructor. As the Diabetes Education Coordinator for Surry County Health and Nutrition Center in Dobson, Whittington knows a thing or two about nutrition, weight and the challenges involved and she finds the challenge helpful in her personal quest to avoid weight gain through the holiday season.
In 2015, more than 13,600 people from all 50 states and all 100 North Carolina counties took part in the Holiday Challenge. At the end of the program, 92 percent reported they had maintained or lost weight, reported the 2015 Holiday Challenge Wrap-Up Report.
The online program sends daily email tips on diet and exercise, advises participants to get adequate rest, keep an activity log, and uses personal information to calculate the proper number of calories to maintain weight. The program is compatible with fitness apps, My Fitness Pal and Lose It.
The challenge is in its 10th year and this will be Whittington’s third year because she feels it definitely helps. She says the emails are not long and tedious and contain practical information for things like managing parties and gatherings and the unusual foods they often present.
A recent tip on managing cold weather advised warming up indoors before going out in the cold by going up and down the stairs a few times before going outside. Whittington tried it with her basement steps and said it worked. “It did make a difference. When I went outside, the cold air felt refreshing instead of cold.” And there was the added benefit of burning a few calories on the stairs.
But the main thing the program does for Whittington, “It helps you be accountable to yourself.” For her, accountability is key. Toward the end of the interview in which she explained her plans and goals for holiday weight management, she said, “Now I’m accountable to you too.” It then occurred to her that when this article is published, she will be accountable to everyone who reads the Mount Airy News. That may be more accountability than she bargained for.
Maintain, don’t gain! Holiday Challenge is part of the Eat Smart, Move More Weigh Less program, a 15-week online weight management program as well as the Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes program, a 12-month online diabetes prevention program recognized by the CDC. Find out more at esmmpreventdiabetes.com or esmmweighless.com.
The following recipes are from the December meeting of “Diabetes and Me” at Cooperative Extension in Dobson and are Holiday Challenge approved. Contact Carmen Long at 336-401-8025 or Kelly Whittington at 336-401-8459 for more information about “Diabetes and Me.”
Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms
Serve this over brown rice, quinoa or another whole grain. Add a
non-starchy vegetable like steamed broccoli or green beans to complete your meal.
240 calories, 12 gm carbohydrates, 27 gm protein, 9 gm fat, 1.9 gm saturated fat, 4 gm sugars, 1 gm dietary fiber, 65 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 480 mg potassium.
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp. trans-fat free margarine
10 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1. Place the chicken breast in a plastic bag and pound thin with a mallet.
2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.
3. Dredge the chicken in flour and coat it on both sides. Add the chicken to the pan
and sauté 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
4. Melt the margarine in the pan. Add the mushrooms and pepper and cook for 5
minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and bring it to a boil to reduce the liquid.
5. Add the chicken broth to the pan and simmer 2 more minutes. Add the chicken
breast back to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Quinoa with Cranberries and Pine Nuts
Confirm all ingredients are gluten-free, including chicken broth, and this recipe can be made gluten-free.
245 calories, 31 gm carbohydrate, 6 gm protein, 12 gm fat, 1.4 gm saturated fat, 10 gm sugars, 3 gm dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 255 mg potassium
2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp. parsley, dried
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1. Heat the chicken broth in a pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in
the quinoa; cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cranberries;
cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
2. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
3. While the quinoa is cooking; whisk together the dressing ingredients.
4. Pour the dressing over the cooked quinoa. Add the toasted pine nuts and mix well.
Pout the quinoa into a serving bowl and sprinkle with dried parsley. Serve warm or
Baked Cauliflower Puree
Confirm all ingredients are gluten-free and this recipe can be made gluten-free.
70 calories, 5 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm protein, 4.5 gm fat, 1.5 gm saturated fat, 2 gm dietary fiber, 5 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium
Nonstick cooking spray
2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
3/4 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp. Smart Balance
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
3 1/2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Place cauliflower florets, chicken broth, Smart Balance, salt and pepper into a
large soup pot over high heat until liquid starts to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover
and steam for 10-12 minutes or until cauliflower is completely tender when poked
with a fork.
3. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the cauliflower mixture until
smooth. Fold in two Tbsp chopped parsley.
4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining two Tbsp parsley with the grated cheese.
5. Pour the pureed cauliflower into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with
cheese and parsley mixture and bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted
and starting to brown around the edges.
Individual S’more Desserts
If you need this dessert to be gluten-free, use gluten-free graham crackers and confirm all other ingredients are gluten-free.
140 calories, 24 carbohydrate, 6 gm protein, 3 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 14 gm sugars: 1 gm dietary fiber, 5 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 245 mg potassium
1-1.4 ounce box sugar-free instant chocolate pudding
2 cups skim milk
1½ graham cracker sheets
8 tbsp. light whipped topping
4 tsp. mini-chocolate chips
4 small juice glasses or parfait dishes
1. In a medium bowl whisk together pudding and skim milk according to package directions.
Cool in refrigerator for 5 minutes.
2. Place graham cracker sheets in a small plastic bag. Use a rolling pin to crush the
graham crackers into crumbs.
3. Place 1/4 cup pudding into bottom of juice glass. Top with 1 tablespoon graham
cracker crumbs and 1 tablespoon whipped topping. Layer with another 1/4 cup
pudding and 1 tablespoon whipped topping. Sprinkle top with 1 teaspoon chocolate
4. Repeat procedure for remaining 3 desserts.
Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.