Confession: I can’t cook. I mean I can, but certainly nothing fancy — we’re talking scrambled eggs or lemon garlic chicken (that one’s pretty rare, actually).
So, it’s only natural that Thanksgiving meal prep intimidates me. How can one possibly balance so many dishes — each with their own list of ingredients? Don’t you get stressed when the water’s boiling, you can’t find your good knife, and all your guests are arriving in less than an hour?
On top of all of that: How do you manage to keep your meals healthy? Or at least healthier?
I’m obviously in need of some help here — so I talked to an expert. Mascha Davis is a registered dietician nutritionist based in Los Angeles.
Of course, she makes it all look very easy (but in an approachable way). Here’s our conversation.
Q: What are your thoughts around what eating ‘healthy’ means, as we approach the holidays?
MD: A thing that I emphasize is that yes, food is for nourishment and nutrition, and getting our vitamins and minerals. But it’s also for celebration and bringing people together; it serves so many different purposes. It’s OK that not every single thing you eat is healthy. You don’t need to be overly hard on yourself during a time of year when there’s all this delicious food.
Q: How can we talk about health-focused, nutritious eating, without veering into conversations promoting unhealthy diet culture?
MD: Not restricting. The more we restrict something, the more we tend to crave it, and the less we feel in control about it. So, don’t skip breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving. If you’re hungry, eat a meal earlier in the day. Don’t “save up” because you’re just going to be ravenously hungry, and end up overeating most likely. You want to be nourishing your body the entire day.
Q: How can you make sure your plate is balanced with the right nutrients? (I tend to load up on the mashed potatoes).
MD: I typically say to follow the rule of thirds when it comes to your plate. Instead of focusing on avoiding something, or keeping to certain macros, have a balanced plate — a third carbs, a third veggies, and a third protein. You’re then getting all of these different nutrients, but you have flexibility with what you’re actually selecting and putting on the plate.
Q: What about factoring in exercise and movement for a healthier holiday?
MD: Movement is always so important. I believe the best movement is the one you enjoy. So, not forcing yourself to exercise just because you’re going to have a big meal. But doing it more because you want to take care of your body and mind and you want to feel good, whether it’s going on a walk or just doing your favorite workout.
Q: Alright, do you have any recipes for someone like me — who wants to practice healthy cooking but has no idea where to start?
MD: Yes! First we have a DIY cranberry sauce. A lot of store bought cranberry sauces have excess fillers and gums, and a lot of excess sugar. This one is so easy to make, super zesty and delicious.
DIY Cranberry Sauce
- 1 bag cranberries
- ½ cup brown sugar *note: to lower the sugar content, swap the sugar for another non-caloric sweetener like stevia or monk fruit*
- ¾ cup water
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp orange zest
- ½ tsp cinnamon
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes until the cranberries pop and turn to your desired consistency.
MD: There’s also a bone broth gravy. This one is a lot healthier than a store bought gravy, which is going to be really high in sodium. With bone broth, this one has additional benefits like all these different minerals and nutrients that can be good for joint health, bone health, gut health. This recipe is from Beauty & the Broth.
Bone Broth Gravy
- 1 pt of beef bone broth concentrate
- Sea salt
- 2-3 tsp tapioca flour
- 2 tbsp butter
- Black pepper
1. Put 2 tbsp of butter into a skillet and melt at low heat
2. Add the 2-3 tsp of tapioca flour into the melted butter and stir together
3. Add in 1 pt of our beef bone broth concentrate and mix together
4. Sprinkle in 1 tsp of thyme
5. Sprinkle in salt and pepper
6. If you want a thicker gravy, feel free to add in more tapioca flour
MD: And then, we have our cauliflower mashed potatoes. There’s nothing wrong with regular mashed potatoes, but cauliflower ones are really delicious too — and this is another simple recipe. It also gives a boost of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
- 1 medium cauliflower
- 2 tbsp cream cheese or vegan butter
- Any additional toppings/seasonings you like (garlic, green onions, salt pepper etc)
1. Chop up cauliflower into florets and add to boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes.
2. Drain and put cauliflower back into the warm pan covered with a lid for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the cream cheese and other desired ingredients to the cauliflower. Then, use a fork, potato masher or food processor to combine all the ingredients to your desired consistency.
4. Add additional ingredients to garnish as desired & enjoy!
Q: And lastly, the holidays can bring up a lot of emotions. Any tips for keeping a healthy headspace this season?
MD: My big tip is to check in with yourself. Especially if you’re eating with other people, it can be really easy to get distracted and lose touch with your internal hunger and fullness signals. I recommend taking a step away — like a bathroom break — so you can consciously check in on your body. Having that awareness can be so helpful and prevent mindless eating. Taking a moment to check in, and just step away, is really big.
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