Have A Healthier Winter

We’re just a few short days away from Christmas, and the magic of the season is all around us. Presents are multiplying under the tree, the drinks are flowing at holiday parties and calories don’t count.

Except that they do, and all our poor food choices during the holiday season catch up to us sooner or later. It’s all fun and games until someone gets fat. January is the saddest of months around these parts; the holiday sparkle has worn off, the snow is dirty and our pants are a little bit tighter. Continue reading “Have A Healthier Winter”

Thanksgiving Swaps

Far be it from me to deny anyone their traditional Thanksgiving favorites on the one day a year they actually get to eat them. I love a goopy green bean casserole topped with packaged fried onions and marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes as much as the next guy! (Although I’m finding that the older I get, the less and less of them I end up eating…) However, you’d be surprised where you can save a few—or a few hundred—calories by making simple changes here and there, yet preserving the same flavor and texture.   Let’s take the day from start to finish, setting yourself up to enjoy all your favorites, but without the stomachache at the end.

Thanksgiving Morning

What better way to negate all those extra calories than to get some exercise beforehand? Running the Turkey Trot downtown, which happens to be the nation’s longest-running footrace, is a no-brainer. The almost-5-mile race attracts almost 15,000 people and is definitely THE place to be on Thanksgiving morning. However, if that sounds like too much to add into your already busy morning, consider the local Turk-EA Trot! The 5k begins at 9 a.m. from the East Aurora Cooperative Market and is free and open to all ages. Participants are asked to bring canned goods to donate to FISH of East Aurora, and costumes are encouraged. If running isn’t your thing, many gyms are open for limited hours that morning, or simply take a brisk walk around your neighborhood.

Food Preparation

Many dishes will turn out just as well with half the butter or sugar that’s called for in a recipe! There is a lot less room for error in baking, such as with pies, cakes and cookies, so follow the instructions unless you’ve already experimented with the recipe. However, that sweet potato casserole is prime for paring-down. Consider decreasing the traditional amount of butter and brown sugar by one-third to one-half, and top with fewer marshmallows or plain chopped nuts instead of candied nuts. Mashed potatoes can be prepared the same way; simply add enough butter and milk until the consistency is right, but try not to go overboard. Many people eat their potatoes with gravy, and therefore won’t even appreciate the extras in the potatoes! Consider serving sautéed green beans instead of the traditional green-bean-and-mushroom-soup casserole, and try not to bathe other vegetable dishes in butter as well.

Navigating the Appetizers

Have you ever sat down to a holiday meal, only to realize you’re not even hungry? Mindless snacking before dinner can add up to way more calories than you’d think, and fills you up fast. Instead of circling the snack table while the turkey is resting, grab some seltzer and chat up your aunt on the other side of the room. If you’re truly hungry and the turkey is far from finished, put together a small plate, making sure to load up on items from the veggie tray. Then, practice mindful eating rather than wolfing down the cheese and crackers. Also, often just one or two bites of something is enough to satisfy your desire for that food, so keep appetizer portions very small.

At the Dinner Table

Perhaps the most important words of wisdom for Thanksgiving are: portion control. At what other time of year do we prepare upwards of ten dishes, all for one meal? It isn’t possible to eat the same amount of stuffing as you might if it were being served on any other night. One thing I say to myself over and over again is, ‘If you want more you can have more.’ Unfortunately, I’m a plate-cleaner and I know that I’m likely finish whatever I put on it. It’s important for me to start out with very small amounts of each side dish—maybe only two or three bites worth—so I can enjoy all of them. As Thanksgiving comes but once a year, don’t feel like you need to fill half your plate with vegetables. Instead, take a little of everything you’d like to eat, and don’t be afraid to be choosy; if you know you don’t like your aunt’s stuffing, don’t waste precious calories on it. Lastly, be sure you’re not overdoing it on the booze. Alcohol inhibits our ability to make good choices, and that that goes for food, too.

Pie Pie Pie!

Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for—dessert! We all know Thanksgiving is really just an excuse to eat three or four slices of pie in one day, right? Yet again, I’ll encourage you to enjoy a little of each dessert that you’d like, but keep those portions small. As in, a sliver of pie, not an eighth, or even a sixteenth, of the pie. Another nice option would be to pack up a small slice of one or two varieties to enjoy another day, when you aren’t uncomfortably full. I like to mix a little pumpkin or apple pie with plain yogurt and milk the next morning and blend it into a protein-packed smoothie!




Buffalo News Refresh Blog – February 2016

Sunday meal planning can make a week’s worth of healthy choices

by: Holly R. Layer

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

One of the biggest challenges to eating real, healthy food is a busy schedule. Unfortunately, we’re all busier than ever, and the healthy food in your fridge isn’t going to prep itself. If you’re hitting the drive-thru more often than you should, perhaps it’s time for you to embrace the art of meal planning.

Basically, meal planning is simply preparing your meals ahead of time, once a week. It can be as many meals as you want, as basic or as gourmet as you want. For example, if you work full-time outside the home, it might be helpful to prepare your breakfast, lunch, a snack and even some dinners. For others, it might just be packing all your lunches, or prepping all your dinners.

When I went back to school, I found I was spending almost an hour each night packing my breakfast, lunch and snacks for the next day. I finally started meal planning, and it’s relieved so much stress and given me back so much time. Instead of spending an hour each night, I spend a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon doing everything once. I still do it, even though I’m home more now.


First, meal planning begins with the PLAN. Plan out your meals. This could look like two egg muffins, toast and an orange for breakfast; a large salad for lunch; an apple and a cheese stick for a snack; and chili with salad and cornbread for dinner. Do that for every day. It’s helpful to repeat or alternate meals, to keep it simple. For example, you could have the same breakfast and snack every day, and alternate lunches. Consider using leftovers as part of your meal plan, as well. Be sure to ask yourself if the meal you’re planning matches where you’re going to eat it – you don’t want to get stuck eating cold lasagna in your car because you don’t have a microwave.

Next, decide what day works best for you to spend about three hours in the kitchen. Ideally, that would be Sunday afternoon or evening, if your meals are designed for Monday through Friday. Be sure to have gone to the grocery store and start with a clean kitchen with clean tools and lots of containers.

Finally, start with the recipe that takes the longest to prepare. Using the example above, get your egg muffins in the oven and the chili cooking on the stove first, and then gather your apples and cheese sticks together in the fridge for easy access. Wash your salad ingredients and chop veggies for the week and put in containers for lunches. Make sure you also have enough salad for dinner, as well. Once the egg muffins are done, pop in the cornbread. Peel all your oranges and put them in containers or baggies. Be sure to follow food safety rules and keep cold things in the fridge for as long as possible before taking them out, and chill items quickly.

Meal planning will relieve stress, save you time and money, and ensure you eat the healthy food you buy each week. Your meals can be as basic (simply assembling items like yogurts, fruit, veggies, nuts) or as gourmet (muffins, soups, stir-frys) as you’d like.

Now, eating healthy food is as easy opening the fridge each morning!

Holly R. Layer is a registered dietitian who lives in East Aurora. She provides nutritional counseling to students at SUNY Buffalo State, and teaches cycle and fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA. She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related. An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy. Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive! In addition to writing for the Refresh Buffalo Blog, you can find her at thehealthypineapple.com.