Healthy Eating: Enjoy tastes of season by practicing moderation, not denial

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Squash with honey and walnuts.
Squash with honey and walnuts.

We have Thanksgiving behind us, which means the season of eating has only just begun. It can be a challenging time for many, and emotional eating as well as drinking in the name of holiday parties can take over. The practice of “mindful eating” can be useful. I’ve discussed this concept before, but I bring it up again as a reminder that rewarding ourselves with food is not always the best choice–especially rich foods.

Moderation, not denial, is the key. Easier said than done, right? I agree. It is okay to indulge in decadent foods, just try to take smaller quantities and pay attention so that you are aware of when you are 80 percent full. Then STOP. Take a break from the buffet. Check in with yourself. Maybe grab another party guest and walk around the block to get some fresh air and enjoy their company one on one. You’ll probably find that you are satisfied and satiated. You will start noticing that you can savor and enjoy the foods that you thought you had to deny yourself and realize that you don’t have to eat a lot to achieve that simple enjoyment. No food is inherently evil…it’s when we eat large amounts of certain foods that we can create havoc on our bodies.

For example, I made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Pies in general are very nostalgic for me, and growing up I was the pie maker for family holidays. My mother passed away this year, and it’s the first Thanksgiving without her presence. Making the pecan pie (one of her favorites) was a way to bring her into the family celebration. I wanted to eat a big piece of the deliciousness, but realized that having a small portion was more than enough to enjoy the taste and the memories. I knew there would be leftovers, so I didn’t have to eat it all “today” since I could enjoy another taste “tomorrow.” Makes sense, yes?

Moderation, not denial! Another trick…almost everything freezes! Have leftovers? Divide things up into small portions and freeze for later. (Just remember to date and label!)

So as you socialize with family, friends or colleagues this holiday season, know that you can enjoy the pleasures of the table without going overboard. Enjoy their companionship and conversation while savoring some of your favorite holiday foods.

Here is a recipe that is easy, delicious, nutritious and quickly becoming one of my go-to side dishes.

Blessings of the season to everyone.

Baked Winter Squash with Honey Walnuts

Try experimenting with this recipe by using different winter squash: butternut, buttercup, kabocha and delicata are especially delicious. This is a great go-to recipe for holiday dinners (and a healthier version of the sweet potatoes with marshmallow casserole!) Serves 4-6

¾ cup walnuts
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sucanat or raw sugar or brown sugar
6 cups winter squash, peeled and cut into large, bite-sized cubes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the walnuts with ½ tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey and the sucanat. Spread the walnuts on a baking tray and bake for seven to nine minutes until they are toasted. Watch them so they do not burn. Set aside.

Turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees.

Toss the squash with the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil, the salt and cinnamon. Place in a baking dish with 2 tablespoons water and cover. Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes until the squash is tender. NOTE: The baking time with depend on the type of squash and the size of the cubes. Top with the walnuts and serve.

Deborah Binder— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

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