On the Menu: Do I have to cook this month?

Do I have to cook?

The holidays are stressful for a multitude of reasons.

For example, you may have to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list while managing a budget, juggle year-end workloads, attend a plethora of holiday parties that require a perfect homemade appetizer, decorate the tree, wrap gifts, help kids with homework as the quarter winds down and ensure they have a top notch winter break planned.

It’s no wonder that December is the month we are most apt to throw the towel in when it comes to cooking, exercise and any attempt at weight management.

Sheryl Lozicki, Registered Dietitian and the Director of Nutrition and Wellness at Mercy Health, is here to talk to us about how to have it all this season without turning your merry jingle into a bitter jangle.

1. Make lists. Check twice. This includes the week’s menu that can be transformed into grocery lists, present lists (don’t forget those for party hosts) and your work or home task list. Each morning identify at least one to two items on your list that you’re going to check off for the day.

2. Drink less caffeine and drink more water. Too much caffeine will add to your anxiety, especially if you’re prone to holiday stress. Sport a water bottle wherever you roam. It’ll save you money, keep you energized, lower your anxiety and help prevent undesirable holiday weight gain, as you won’t confuse hunger for thirst. Research consistently shows that people who drink water before meals eat fewer calories at mealtime.

3. Shop early. Shop first thing in the morning when shelves are still organized and sales assistants are more available and energized. Shop early in the month of December when sizes and variety is still high. Carry a water bottle so you don’t get dehydrated and succumb to the salted pretzels, gourmet cookies and calorie-loaded smoothies and coffee drinks.

4. Short-cut your cooking. Use a crockpot, buy a rotisserie chicken and cook once, use twice. Whatever you can make in a crockpot, make. Use it to make soups, chili, stews, lasagna, pulled pork, you name it, just Google the entrée and a recipe is bound to pop up. Rotisserie chicken is an economical shortcut on your way home that is easily rounded out with a side of frozen vegetables, canned fruit or salad. The cook once, use twice rule is easily applied to chicken breast, roast beef and pork. Cook off a double portion and use within 72 hours. The excess can be shredded into a sandwich, cut into strips for a fajita or put into a soup. Here’s a crock-pot chicken taco recipe that makes 7 servings of 2 tacos each.

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin, ground
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Toppings:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Cheddar
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • 14 soft shelled tacos, warmed

Directions:

  1. Combine above ingredients and then layer with 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cook the chicken on low heat for 5 hours or until an internal temperature of 165°F is reached.
  2. Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred (remove bay leaves).
  3. Create 6 separate bowls of diced onion, diced tomato, shredded cheddar, shredded lettuce, guacamole and salsa.

5. Create one "signature" tasty, healty party appetizer for all your potlucks. Make it healthy, quick to make and always-on hand. Here are a few of my favorite alternatives to the sweet, fried and creamy standard fare.

Smoked Gouda and Pear Skewers

Ingredients:

  • Cubed Smoked Gouda
  • Cubed Pears tossed with apple, orange or lemon juice to prevent browning
  • Crushed Walnuts
  • Honey
  • Toothpicks

Directions:

  1. Skewer cubed pear and smoked Gouda.
  2. Drizzle with honey.
  3. Garnish with crushed walnuts.

Mini Bacon and Blue Cheese Iceberg Wedges

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 slices crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce

Directions:

  1. Wash, core and quarter a head of iceberg lettuce.
  2. Slice iceberg into bite size wedges.
  3. Combine all above ingredients except for the bacon to create a dressing.
  4. Drizzle each wedge with dressing and top with crumbled bacon bits.

6.    Make time for you. Take 30 minutes to exercise and 5-10 minutes to meditate, most days of the week. December is the month where we exercise the least but need it the most. Meditate by deep breathing. Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and just breathe. Focus on your breathing and how your body moves as you inhale and exhale, rather than letting your mind randomly wander.

Mercy Health wishes you a stress-free December!

(© 2016 WZZM)


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