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As we approach the holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year – my patients begin questioning how they can stay healthy and in control of their cholesterol and weight with the increased social parties and all that delicious, tempting food tempting.
You can do this! Your festive eating can be healthy and delicious by following a few simple guidelines.
Most people are surprised to hear that — with rare exception — we eat the same 10 or so foods over and over. There is little variation in what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, day after day. Yet stepping out of your regular eating routine can allow you to discover delicious and nutritious new foods. The “new foods” may be essentially the same foods you have been eating but prepared in new and exciting ways. A little tweaking in food preparation can make a huge difference in the taste and nutritional value of your familiar foods.
We have three big food groups on the planet. Yes, just three. It’s hard to believe this when you walk into the supermarket and look at the thousands of products on the shelves. The fact is that the 50-55,000 products in your average supermarket come from just three macronutrients, or three food groups. Our industrialized world has taken these three big food groups and combined them to produce all sorts of processed concoctions, a truly mind-boggling thought. Every year, billions of dollars are spent to create processed foods, most of it at least 60 plus days old by the time it is eaten.
As some of you know, I grew up in England. Heavily processed foods — roast beef dinners, cured sliced meats, English cheeses, butter, fish, and chips — were standard fare. Today I am happy to say that I have left these behind me. I do not eat any of these foods anymore. Rather, I go for fresh and alive!
Fresh and Alive
The human body does incredibly well when food is consumed fresh and alive — as close to its original, natural form — as possible. Foods of this type are the ones that will provide our bodies with the nutrients they need to function optimally. These foods deliver the nutrients our bodies need in an easy to digest form. I wrote more about this in my books, The APO E Gene Diet and The Perfect Gene Diet, because it is important!
I know today that is often virtually impossible to get food right out of the garden or off the fruit trees, but it’s important that we do our best to move away from heavily processed foods and towards more fresh, whole foods. If even 50% of your diet can be live food, it will make a significant improvement to your health. This can be as simple as cutting back on the processed packaged foods and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. You can include them in your breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. Below, I’ve offered a number of delicious and festive recipes that will allow you to do just that.
The key is purchasing seasonal foods and eating them as close as you can get to the natural, whole food form they came in, which may mean changing the way you prepare them. You will find suggestions for how you can do this in the recipes below.
The holidays are upon us! Please, don’t resign yourself to skyrocketing cholesterol and weight during this festive season. It doesn’t have to happen. Appealing options to the usual over processed foods and meals, and a clear and well thought out plan for healthier eating — with a focus on fresh and alive — are just what you need to get you through the holidays.
Choose to make the healthy choice. Walking the same path year after year, will get you the same results — typically rising cholesterol levels, weight, and an unhappy body. Changing the path that you walk through this festive season may be one of the best gifts you can give yourself — and your family. If you are following the APO E Online Diet Program, you already know this! A decision to choose a healthier diet yields a healthier body. I can offer support and options to make this easier for you, but you will be the person deciding to do things a little differently this holiday season — or not.
Eating Live, Seasonal Foods
No matter what season we are in, it is always good to choose foods that are in season. In today’s global economy, this is rarely a consideration, because most foods are available to us year-round. I was at a farmers market in Hawaii in September, wanting to buy a white pineapple, a particular type of pineapple that I wanted to share with friends because they are so delicious. I walked around every stall in the farmers market searching for one of these pineapples without any success. Finally, I asked a farmer why I couldn’t find one. The simple answer was that pineapples were not in season. I stopped for a minute and realized, “Of course! This is where pineapples are grown and they are a seasonal fruit!” We don’t think of them as such because they are shipped to the us in non-tropical California, year-round, and I am used to buying them whenever I want from my supermarket.
Benefits of Seasonal and Live Foods
Food grown and eaten in season is fresher and tastier. If you have ever grown your own tomatoes or basil, or even potatoes, then you know how much better they taste. An out of season tomato from the supermarket, has pretty much zero flavor. Being used to this, we don’t expect much more. But more is possible!
And remember that seasonal food — ideally organic — is not only tastier but more nutritious. Fruit or vegetables left to ripen on the tree or plant, and then picked at peak of its ripeness, is also at the peak of its nutritional value. What we find in supermarkets today is fruit that is picked before ripening and left to ripen during shipping. This is the reason why it’s important to buy local and in season, whenever possible.
This becomes easier with the farmers markets, which are growing in popularity, and fun to explore. Or consider growing, at least some, of your own.
Fruit and Nuts in Season During the Fall and Holiday Season
These are some of the foods that are in season now — and very yummy, colorful, and tasty.
- Brazil nuts
PAM’S SEASONAL RECIPES
In the recipes that follow you will see that I’m encouraging you to not only buy seasonal foods but also to incorporate them into your meals — in as close as possible to the natural whole food form. I’ve added ingredients and spices that not only enhance flavor but boost the nutritional content.
Festive Breakfast Options
For your good health, you need to think beyond sweet cereal with milk and sugar, and eggs Benedict or Florentine with bacon and hollandaise sauce with a dollop of sour cream. This is such a highly inflammatory way to begin a day, I suggest to think differently!
APO E Granola - Festive Style
This year we launched a highly successful APO E Gene Granola, with a version specifically created for each APO E gene type. Patients are raving about it. This granola fits into the YUMMY category. Make it more super delicious by adding fresh, seasonal fruit. Each version carries the correct balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to meet the needs of each APO E genotype. Adding a little festivity to the granola with fresh seasonal fruit is both fun and nutritious.
Rather than serving your APO E Granola with your favorite organic plant milk, try mixing it with a plant-based yogurt and fresh delicious fruits.
If you don’t know your APO E type, choose a healthy granola from your local health food store or better still, try our organic APO E 3/3 granola – this granola is for a moderate fat diet and until you know your APO E, is the best one to choose. You can find out more about testing to find out your APO E gene type here.
Festive Eggs for the Holiday Season
1 medium potato – sliced and cooked in a pan with 1 tsp. olive oil,
or two slices of whole grain toast
1 fresh, thinly sliced tomato
½ cup cooked spinach
4 egg whites
Parsley to garnish
Highlight the holiday season colors of red and green by adding red pepper and green spinach to your egg white omelet or scrambled egg whites. Served with a side of freshly sliced red tomato and avocado and add a dash of fresh parsley to make this look wonderfully festive and delicious.
I like to layer the ingredients. After cooking your egg whites and sliced potatoes, make layers. Potatoes on the bottom, then sliced tomatoes, spinach, cooked egg whites, and sliced avocado. For people that like this on toast, layer the toast with thinly sliced tomato, spinach and egg whites, avocado, salt and pepper to taste.
You can top if off with a little smoked salmon. Try this for different taste alternative!
Serves 1 person
Almond or Whole Grain Pancakes, with Fresh Compote, Almond Yogurt, and Walnuts.
You can make the pancakes from scratch or buy a high quality organic whole grain pancake mix. If you are avoiding wheat and gluten, you can try an almond flour pancake mix, or even a chickpea flour option. You can find a variety of healthy options here.
Pancakes typically call for eggs, milk, and a fat — usually butter. When you have chosen your base flour for the pancake, consider the options below to improve the taste as well as the nutritional value. Without changing the flavor, the changes will reduce the inflammatory factor and decrease the calories — a welcome bonus during the holidays!
- Use egg whites only, replacing one egg with two egg whites.
- Substitute butter with olive oil. This decreases the amount of unhealthy saturated fats while increasing healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Replace cow’s milk or cream, with organic soymilk or your favorite plant-based milk in one-to-one ratios. Soy is naturally free of cholesterol, low in saturated fats, contains no lactose, and is a good source of protein.
Pancake Topping - Scottish Persimmon Fruit Pottage, Or Banana and Walnuts
2 ½ cups of fresh persimmons
½ tsp. each of grated lemon rind, tangerine rind, and orange rind
2 tsp. grade B maple syrup (has a dominant maple flavor, rather than the overpowering sweetness of grade A)
¼ - ½ cup water
Cinnamon to taste
Puree persimmons in blender with water, lemon, tangerine, and orange rinds. Pour puree into a small saucepan and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add cinnamon, and maple syrup to the puree mixture. Stir well and allow to cook for another 8-10 minutes on a low heat.
If it becomes thicker than you want, thin it by adding a little water to reach the desired consistency.
Use as a topping for pancakes, with almond yogurt (my favorite is non-dairy Kite Hill unsweetened almond yogurt) banana, and walnuts. .
4 servings. 1 serving is ¾ cup.
A Festive and Healthy Charcuterie Board
Rather than the usual bread and salty crackers with high inflammatory, full-fat dairy cheeses, and creamy dairy-laden dips, consider creating your own healthy charcuterie board. Consider fresh smoked salmon, cashew cheese, and sliced tofu sausages alongside your favorite spicy mustard. Add freshly cut vegetables, seasonal fresh fruit, and some tasty chutney and cashew cheese to spread on some Mary’s Organic Crackers. Be sure to include crunchy red bell peppers and a few different varieties of olives. Add Red Pepper Hummus and Tomato-Olive Tapenade whose recipes I’ve included recipes below.
APO E Gene Red Pepper Hummus
INGREDIENTS (preferably organic)
3 large red peppers, non-spicy (spicy optional)
1 tsp. of APO E Gene Program olive oil
1 cup sesame seeds
1 oz. pine nuts
2 large lemons – juiced (use 3 lemons if you like the taste of lemon)
½ oz. ginger, freshly grated
¼ tsp. turmeric
30 oz. cooked chickpeas
½ bunch cilantro,1 small red pepper to garnish
¼ - ½ cup water
Roast peppers ahead of time
Cut peppers in half, removing seeds and stem.
Lightly coat red peppers with tsp. olive oil and roast in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes.
Let peppers cool, then slice into 1” strips. Set aside.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat.
Add sesame seeds and pine nuts in the pan stirring until well toasted. Set aside and allow to cool.
Once cool, grind sesame seeds in a coffee grinder or blender to a smooth consistency. Chill for 10-15 minutes.
Place seeds, nuts, and remaining ingredients, except 1¼ cup of water in food processor. Blend, gradually adding remaining water until hummus reaches the desired consistency.
Place in a glass container and chill for a minimum of 1 hour.
APO E Gene Program Tomato and Olive Tapenade
INGREDIENTS (preferably organic)
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup fresh basil
16 kalamata olives
1 oz. avocado
3 tsp. expeller-pressed olive oil
¾ cup water
Soak sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 10 minutes.
Drain tomatoes and save liquid.
Place all the ingredients, except water and oil, into a food processor. Slowly add oil, reserved water from tomatoes, and approximately ¾ cup water, blending until you have a smooth consistency.
Place tapenade into a glass bowl and chill for 4 hours. Serve with whole-grain crackers or whole-grain bread.
Arugula and Beet Salad with Pomegranate and Walnuts
INGREDIENTS (preferably organic)
2 tablespoons APO E Gene Organic Olive Oil
2 tablespoons APO E Gene Organic Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon or the juice of half an orange
1 ½ cups of jicama cubed (adds crunch!)
1 tsp. of wild local honey
½ cup pomegranate
3 medium purple beets
4 cups of baby arugula
¼ cup of walnuts
black pepper and salt to taste
Prepare the beets ahead of time
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil.
Wash beets and trim off stems.
Add beets to boiling water and cook for 20-40 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.
Drain water and cool.
Peel and cut into bite sizes. Can be refrigerated overnight.
I like to add ½ cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of water to my beets when refrigerating overnight.
In a large bowl mix the first 5 ingredients together, then gradually and slowly, whisk in honey. Add the freshly cooked beets and arugula and lightly toss. Garnish with the walnuts and pomegranate fruit. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Butter Lettuce Pear Salad with Citrus Dressing
SALAD INGREDIENTS (preferably organic):
2 ripe pears (1 ½ cups) peeled and sliced
8 cups butter lettuce or Arugula (washed and dried ahead of time)
¼ cup organic sliced almonds or walnuts
1 cup fresh sliced red pepper, sliced into 1-inch strips.
¼ cup pomegranate
Shred butter lettuce or arugula into bite-sized pieces and place into a serving bowl. Just before serving, dress with Citrus Dressing and garnish with pears, nuts, pomegranate and red pepper slices..
CITRUS DRESSING INGREDIENTS
6 tablespoons APO E Gene Organic Olive Oil
6 tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed juice orange
½ tsp. stone ground mustard
1 tsp. wild local honey
Black pepper and salt to taste - very light
In a glass large jar mix the first 5 ingredients. Add honey. Shake until it well mixed and becomes slightly thick. When you are ready to eat your salad spoon some of the dressing on the lettuce, add your almond garnish and pears.
Fresh APO E Gene Spicy Green Beans with Macadamia Nuts
Add a little spice to your beans – yummy factor is high if you love spicy!
1 lb. fresh green beans
½ cup of chopped macadamia nuts
1 tsp. APO E Gene Organic Olive Oil
1-2 tsp. spicy sesame oil
3 tbsps. Tamari Sauce.
½ tsp. crushed pepper flakes
1 tsp. sesame seeds
In a large pan, heat olive oil on low to medium heat.
Add green beans and stir fry for 5-6 minutes, or until a few are lightly browned
Add of spicy sesame oil, crushed pepper flakes and Tamari Sauce.
Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add beans to your serving plate, and sprinkle sesame seed and chopped macadamia nuts on the top of the beans.
This green bean recipe goes very well with sliced roasted turkey, APO E Gene Program mashed potatoes, Pam’s APO E Olive Oil roasted vegetables — potatoes, carrots, and broccolini; and APO E gene Program Mushroom Gravy. If you are on the APO E Gene Online Program, you can find most of these recipes in your recipe book.
Chowders and Bisque
Soups, chowders, and bisques! What's the difference? While soups can be thin and light, a chowder is characterized by being rich and thick. Like stew, chowder contains large chunks of meat or seafood and vegetables, notably potatoes. The key difference between bisques and chowders is in the final texture—bisques are a smooth, silky seafood soup, while chowders are chunky and toothsome with chunks of potatoes, meat, or vegetables.
These chowders and bisques are packed with nutrition and perfect for a light lunch or dinner. Serve with a delicious fresh salad and warm wholegrain or French bread rolls smothered with fresh avocado.
Pam’s Vegan Corn Potato Chowder
Ingredients (preferably organic):
¼ cup APO E Organic Olive Oil
4 large potatoes
20 oz. white or yellow corn kernels (set some aside for garnish)
1 cup chopped celery
16 oz. white beans
4 cups of vegan chicken broth
1 medium yellow squash, cubed
1 small zucchini squash, cubed
1 ½ cups of soy milk
1 small red pepper for garnish – finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro – chopped
Salt and white pepper to taste.
Wash all vegetables and cut into bite size cubes.
Warm olive oil in a large heavy pan.
Add celery, squash, potatoes and corn to heated pan.
Mix well and stir as needed, on low to medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly browned.
Add the broth and beans stirring well.
Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Add soy milk and stir well.
Cook another 10 – 15 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to add white pepper to this soup. It has a softer flavor.
Serve hot in your favorite soup bowl. Garnish with cooked corn kernels, red pepper, cilantro, or parsley.
Pam’s Smoked Salmon Chowder
INGREDIENTS (preferably organic)
½ cup APO E Organic Olive Oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 ½ cups chopped carrots
½ cup corn
1 ½ medium chopped red bell peppers
3-4 large potatoes, cubed
12 -16 oz. wild smoked sockeye salmon cut into bite sizes pieces
2 small to medium cubed yellow squash
2 small to medium cubed zucchini squash
20 oz. vegan chicken broth
2 cups soy milk
½ cup cashew milk
Salt and white pepper to taste
Wash and slice or cube vegetables
Warm olive oil in a large heavy pan, on low to medium heat.
Add vegetables to heated pan. Mix well and simmer on low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until slightly browned.
Add the vegan chicken broth and stir well.
Bring to a boil. Boil gently for a few minutes. Stir well.
Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Add soy and cashew milk, stir well.
Add smoked salmon, salt, and white pepper to taste. I like to add white pepper to this soup, as it has a softer flavor.
Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Serve hot in your favorite soup bowl. Garnish with cooked corn, red pepper cilantro, or parsley.
Solutions to be Successful this Holiday Season Dining
- Decide to set and follow through on an intention to enjoy and celebrate the festive season, while taking good care of your physical body. By paying attention, eating well, being selective what you eat, and exercising, you can avoid the “inevitable” weight gain.
- Plan ahead so that while indulging yourself here and there, you have the food on hand to maintain a healthy overall diet. And plan ahead for how and when you will make time to exercise each day.
- Eat breakfast as close to when you get up as possible – this will help you to maintain a healthy muscle mass. When the body doesn’t get the food it needs, it draws on muscle mass, including the heart muscle.
- Wake up and eat, take your supplements, shower—or take a bath—and you are ready for your day. Getting an early start on taking care of the basics leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and a higher than usual energy level — a great way to enter your day.
- Allow an hour after breakfast, before exercising. Your body needs time to digest your breakfast and restore your blood sugars to normal.
- Do not skip meals. Take a small snack between meals so you don’t get hungry and eat more than you intended when mealtime comes.
- If exercising later, eat a light snack before exercising. My patients are likely tired of me telling them this, but it is important. You don’t drive your car without gas. Don’t energetically move your body before fueling it.
- Drink your fluids regularly. Staying hydrated can boost your energy as well as keep you focused. Go light on caffeine and alcohol.
- If you are lucky enough to have some time off, use it well. Don’t let that time just “drift away.” Use it to do the things you really want to do. This may require planning.
- Equally important as caring for the physical body, is caring for your mental and emotional health. Practice gratitude and random acts of kindness. Take short breaks to pause, breath, ground yourself, and smile!
- Consider wearing something festive and fun, sharing the uplifting energies of the season. J This is good for your health!
- Holidays are for enjoying so I always tell my patients that the body can handle brief inflammation caused by indulging in some of those inflammatory foods it’s difficult to avoid during the festive season — processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar. It’s chronic inflammation that the body can’t handle. So, it’s OK to indulge and share some of those treats that are usually best avoided. At the same time, be mindful that you take many a well-known recipe and substitute olive oil for butter, plant-based milk for dairy, egg whites rather than whole eggs. These small changes will make a significant difference, especially when practiced over time.
- Having a fun and healthy holiday season by walking a different path, as we discussed earlier, can not only improve your health but prove to be a life-long solution going forward. If you are successful this season, you will be setting the stage for carrying the new behaviors throughout the new year. How good would that be?!
Pam McDonald and All our staff at Penscott Corporation and the APO E Gene Program.
Pam McDonald FNP
Integrative Medicine Family Nurse Practitioner