Do you love the holiday season, yet at the same time dread the hectic preparations and inevitable tight jeans? It is that time of the year again when our willpower is tossed out the window starting with the Halloween chocolates in a few weeks. Then we can look forward to turkey, ham, and a delicious stream of cakes, cookies and pies.
Welcome to my life. Every day is like a holiday as I try multiple recipes on a daily basis. There is a lot of food, a lot of laughter (kitchen disasters are quite amusing after the fact), a lot of sharing and a lot of weight gain. A number of people have asked me how I stay a svelte size two when I have to taste everything I make as well as try dishes at restaurants, food trucks and bakeries…all for the sake of exploring flavors!
I wish I could say that it was genetic. Unfortunately, it is a challenge. But as is the case with all challenges in life, it can be overcome with a pinch of creativity. These are my five tricks to keep those extra pounds at bay:
1. Share your food. It is the season of giving. Not only does sharing make you feel good about yourself, but it lets you create your own tasting menu. You can be an exploratory foodie and try a few bites of everything. Invite friends to join you, or cleanly cut your serving and ask to pack up the rest. I can usually drop the packed food off with friends who live or work en route to my next activity.
2. Eat rich, flavorful dishes. Do you notice how you usually eat more when you try to stick to a low-fat, low-carb diet? Many of these diets leave us unsatisfied because we naturally want what we cannot have. So we eat more to try to satiate our craving. However, the craving remains because we are not addressing the root cause. I love food and like to eat rich, flavorful dishes. Bring on the butter; bring on the cream! The key is to only have a taste. Two bites of creme brulee make me a lot happier than a tub of cottage cheese with fruit. I am not a nutritionist, but given enough cottage cheese I am sure the calories will even out. I know, you must be wondering how I do not faint from starvation. That leads us to the third trick.
3. Eat all the time. I am not used to being hungry because I eat all the time. I usually feel faint from starvation if more than three hours have passed since my last nibble. It could be due to low blood sugar or my mental incapacity to deal with food withdrawal. Probably the latter as I am a bona fide food addict. It is hard to follow trick two and limit yourself to only a few bites if you are starving. So my solution is to not starve. I always leave a small bag of raw pistachios or a protein-rich granola bar in my bag that I nosh on when I have back-to-back appointments.
4. Drink lots of water. One of the my most amazing discoveries happened when I tried a juice cleanse. I never drank enough water, but had to drink 16 ounces between every juice. Most of us think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty. But after I finished the cleanse, I was more in tune with what my body wanted, and can now tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Eureka! This was definitely a life-changing discovery. I now happily gulp 16 ounces of water in one shot, and try to keep a reusable bottle of water in my bag. As an added bonus this is probably also the secret to glowing skin, which is another question that I have been asked quite a few times. Well, water and the deep pore facials at my favorite spa.
5. Find rich-tasting alternatives and guzzle green smoothies. With this blog, I may seem like a glutton who gorges on red meat, fatty cuts and butter sauce. However, I love flavors and there are delicious flavors to be found across many foods. I enjoy the variety in vegetables. I just groan with pleasure thinking about a fresh tomato salad with basil and avocado, the crispy smokiness of toasted chickpeas with cumin, and the sweet caramelization of roasted cauliflower. One of my favorite desserts is greek yogurt dolloped over fresh blueberries with a drizzle of honey. It tastes so decadent I forget that it is healthy.
My favorite trick is to drink green smoothies because they fill me up, are quick to make (and clean up) and keep me supercharged all day long. Green smoothies will give you the energy to cruise through the hectic holiday preparations and parties without feeling run down. If you tried a green smoothie in the past and thought it was gross, you have to try this one.
My friend Jalanda, author of Raw Food Staples, gave me a recipe for a delicious Spinach Banana Smoothie that I am addicted to. Raw, iron-rich baby spinach has a delicate flavor that is easily masked by the sweet starchiness of the banana. As an added bonus, bananas are a good source of potassium so this is a great all-natural post workout snack on the rare days I manage to drag myself to a pilates class. I especially like the addition of ginger, which makes you pause and wonder about the hint of spiciness. Ginger is also an immunity booster for the upcoming cold and flu season.
To mix it up, try some of Jalanda’s other free smoothie recipes and my Cinnamon Cashew Milk. You may even want to have this for dessert with the creaminess of the cashews and the sweet-spicy aroma of the cinnamon. I add just a little coconut oil to create the full-bodied mouth feel of milk. Coconut has an overpowering flavor so only use a few drops to keep it in the background. This is delicious cold, but every so often I like to heat it up (I know, that is blasphemy for raw food…but everything in moderation). A steaming mug of Cinnamon Cashew Milk is even yummier than white hot chocolate, not to mention more beneficial with plenty of magnesium and heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Just watch the calories and stick to one glass a day, which you can enjoy while unwinding in the evening to gear up for the next day’s festivities.
Let me know if these tricks help you during this holiday season. I would also love to hear about creative tricks that you use to keep your energy up and those extra pounds down.
Spinach Banana Smoothie
1 cup spinach
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cups cold water
1 – 2 tablespoons agave
1/2 inch ginger, peeled
For high-speed blenders, add all the ingredients at once and blend for 20-30 seconds or until smooth.
For other blenders, first add the spinach and 1 cup water. Blend until the spinach is broken up. Add the remaining ingredients and water. Blend until smooth.
Remember to start the blender on low and gradually increase it to high. Clean the blender before drinking your smoothie since green smoothies stick and are harder to clean up later.
Raw Food Staples
by Jalanda James
Cinnamon Cashew Milk
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
3 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coconut oil
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Shake the container well before using.
My favorite blender is the Vitamix Blender because it can pulverize anything, and takes less than a minute to clean. Although, my friends seem to be more impressed when I tell them that it is the same blender that bars use to make frozen margaritas.
If you do not want to spring for the hefty price tag of the Vitamix, the only other blender strong enough for me (and just as easy to clean as the Vitamix) is the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender.
Chinese Cooking Event
Join me for a Chinese Cooking Event that I am hosting in collaboration with the NYC Cooking and Dining Meetup Group on Saturday, November 6th. The menu includes Chive Dumplings, Fried Rice, San Choi Bao,
Beef with Cumin, Red Chicken, Wheat Noodles with Pork and Cabbage, Double Cooked Eggplant and Mango Pudding.
Foodista Featured Blog of the Day
I am delighted to share with you that Tasty Pursuits is Foodista’s featured blog of the day.