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As a nutrition coach, I work with clients all the time to help them understand that food has two equally important functions: as a source of energy and as a social, communal and cultural phenomenon. To focus on the calories alone is to ignore a huge component of what makes food so preeminent in our lives. While it is critically important to our long-term health that we eat nutrient-dense foods and essential to a functioning planet that we eat as many local and organic products as possible, there is something to be said for eating all the foods we love--even the ones that aren’t so good for us--at least in moderation.
There is no time of year when the social function of food is more important than the holidays. With Thanksgiving just around the corner in the U.S. and Christmas hot on its heels, temptation to indulge in all those “foods we love” is everywhere you turn. While nothing is going to change this abundance of temptation, it is possible to limit the damage. Here I share two tasty alternatives to the carb and calorie laden favorites pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.
DELICIOUS CULPRIT #1: PUMPKIN PIE
ALTERNATIVE: PUMPKIN SPICE SMOOTHIE
My Pumpkin Spice Smoothie is the perfect meal the morning of a big holiday gathering. It’s still got all the delicious flavors the dessert has but with about half the calories and sugar per serving.
What You’ll Need:
- ¾ cup pumpkin purée (canned)
- ¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 8 oz unsweetened almond milk (or use hemp, coconut or rice milk)
- 1 frozen banana
- 4 ounces apple cider
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon (or “a dash”) ground cloves
- 1” fresh ginger, peeled
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup ice
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 teaspoons cacoa nibs (optional for garnish)
How to Make It:
- Blend all ingredients except the chia seeds in a high speed blender until smooth.
- Add more ice to thicken, or almond milk to thin out as desired.
- Split into two portions and stir one tablespoon of chia seeds into each glass.
- Garnish with cacao nibs if you want a little extra crunch--just beware as these guys can get caught in most straws.
DELICIOUS CULPRIT #2: MASHED POTATOES
ALTERNATIVE: CAULIFLOWER "MASHED POTATOES"
Try making Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes instead of the starchier traditional dish.
There are countless recipes on the web, but the basic gist is this:
What You’ll Need:
- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- Splash of vegetable broth or coconut milk
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast (if you’re down with dairy use parmesan instead)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Ground pepper to taste
- Fresh chives (for garnish)
How to Make It:
- Heat a large pot filled with 1/2” of water over high heat until boiling.
- De-stem the cauliflower and cut into pieces for steaming.
- Add the cauliflower and garlic cloves your pot and place over boiling water. Cover and steam until cauliflower is soft when poked with a fork, about 6-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat, drain and let cool.
- Add the steamed cauliflower and garlic to a food processor. Add the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.
- Pulse the food processor until all contents are mostly smooth. You want to leave a little texture.
- Add vegetable stock (or coconut milk), little by little (be very conservative) as needed to bring the mixture together. Try not to use too much as you want to keep it as thick as possible.
- Serve hot and top with fresh chives.