For many of us, a blizzard is the least of our worries this time of year. December’s perfect storm comes in the form of cookies, candy, egg nog, cold weather, early sunsets and busy schedules that often lead to hurried, fast-food dinners and decreased outside activity — which adds up to a few extra pounds.
If a person who weighs 160 pounds gains just one pound, he or she will need to walk at a moderate pace for more than two hours daily for a week to burn that pound off.
It’s no surprise that most Americans gain weight during the holiday season, said Jude Clapper, a registered dietitian, diabetes instructor and wellness advocate at the Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center.
“One way you can prevent weight gain is to prepare healthy meals at home,” she said. “You’ll avoid the traps of fast food and overeating at parties.”
Clapper said preparing healthy meals doesn’t have to be time-consuming.
We gathered a few of our favorite recipes that are easy to make ahead and store as leftovers throughout the busy holiday season.
Creole Red Bean Ratatouille
4 oz. dried, whole-grain penne
1 Tbsp. olive oil, extra virgin preferred, divided use
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen, cut okra
1/2 no-salt-added 15.5-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed, drained
3 medium dried bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
1/8-1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
2 oz. shredded, low-fat mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp. shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt. Drain well in a colander. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the onion and bell pepper for 3-4 minutes, or until soft, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic. Cook for 10 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, okra, beans, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the okra is tender. Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves.
Stir the parsley, salt, and the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil into the ratatouille. Serve over the pasta. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan.
Original recipe and nutrition information is available from the American Heart Association.
Greek-Style Stewed Chicken
1 lb. chicken breast tenders
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
2 medium shallots, quartered
14.5 oz. canned, no-salt-added, diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Discard all visible fat from the chicken.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the chicken for 2 minutes on each side.
Stir in the bell pepper and shallots. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.
Original recipe and nutrition information is available from the American Heart Association.Enjoy LiveWell Online Magazine? Stay up-to-date with a free email subscription!