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Gina Cousineau

By Gina Cousineau

As we enter the holiday season in these uncertain times, I feel compelled to help you see that your food choices cannot only bring joy to you and your entire family, but can be curative at the same time.

While I had every intention of writing this month about how your food choices might be your only recourse to lessening the effects of your comorbidities that threaten to harm your very future health, I instead decided to focus on helping you use food to bring happiness to those you love this holiday season.

The concept of conviviality is often connected with celebrations that include a joyful event paired with feasting. As we approach what is typically a celebratory season led by food, drinks and gathering with family and friends, the fuzzy and warm feelings we get from these events no doubt include comfort foods paired with family traditions.

It is no wonder that these foods are an easy antidote in these tumultuous times, as we look for every opportunity to find joy.

Unfortunately, this has driven our obesity epidemic to an all-time high. In a recent national survey in which participants were asked, “Are you currently on any kind of diet, either to lose weight or for some other health-related reason?”, more Americans said they were on a special diet to lose weight or for other health reasons compared with a decade ago.

While I continue to implore you to get off the diet rollercoaster for good, at least for the moment, I ask you to give yourself some grace in these challenging times and consider the following approach:

Celebratory events will include food and drink that are not your normal. That being said, prepare for what is potentially a day of excess, by being moderate in the days and weeks leading up to and following.

The moment you get into the deprivation mentality of removing entire food groups and limiting calories, you set yourself up for failure.

Two things will transpire with this plan. You are, in essence, giving yourself permission to overeat and likely will have no restraint. This overindulging will lead to guilt, shame, and what I like to call that horrific feeling of being “thanksgivingfull” (stuffed to the brim and wishing you could go back in time).

Instead, let’s attempt once again to find a successful strategy. I go back to the “healthy plate” approach over and over with strangers and clients alike. For lunch and dinner, fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

In the Mama G lifestyle, this is everything but potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and hard-shelled squash. Then fill in with 1/4 plate of wholesome starches/grains (this is where potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and hard-shelled squash can be enjoyed) and 1/4 plate of lean protein (animal and/or plant).

Choose foods you love, as close to nature as possible (in other words, minimal processing and added ingredients), and cook/serve with healthy fats such as olive/avocado oils, nuts, seeds and avocado.

For that first meal of the day, take that healthy plate and swap your veggies for fruit. And for snacks, one or more as your hunger dictates, try pairing healthy fat, lean protein and healthy fiber options. Check out choosemyplate.gov for ideas.

While most of us need to be on a calories budget to reach our lofty goals, for now, simply attempting to eat three wholesome meals and a snack or two each day will help you to find some sense of normalcy in what is surely a topsy-turvy world.

Sample Meal Plan

Breakfast: Whole grain toast spread with nut butter and topped with sliced bananas. Glass of lowfat/nonfat milk or coffee/tea latte.

Lunch: Taco bowl with canned beans or frozen rice. Fajita-style peppers, onions, zucchini sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Mexican spices. Choose lean protein such as chicken, shrimp or 93/7 ground turkey or beef. Top with avocado or cheese.

Dinner: Sheet Pan Salmon Veggie Meal. On large sheet pan, toss baby potatoes, sliced colored peppers, red onion and zucchini with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Push veggies to one half. Place salmon fillets dusted with salt and pepper (or favorite spice mix) on other half. Continue roasting till salmon is cooked through (8-10 minutes). Enjoy.

Snack: Cottage cheese topped with chopped apple, walnuts and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Gina Cousineau sees clients virtually and in-person out of her San Clemente office. Her extensive education with a BS in dietetics and MS in integrative and functional nutrition, chef training, and 30-plus years as a fitness professional, allow her to help clients lose weight and improve their health. You can reach her at mamag@mamagslifestyle.com, 949.842.9975, and on Instagram and Facebook @mamagslifestyle.

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