Some of us with allergies and dietary restrictions can't indulge over the holidays. Here's how to eat healthy.
December 14, 2011 1:27 p.m.
Related Story: Eating Healthy For The Holidays
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. When it comes to eating during the holidays, we're often told to throw our diets out the window. And it's a rare person who doesn't splurge at least a little bit this time of year. People with severe food allergies, health issues, and dietary restrictions don't have much wiggle room. So it's time to talk about healthier holiday eating. Here with lots of tip system my guest, Karen golden, food writer of the chum, local bounty for San Diego mean. Welcome.
GOLDEN: Happy holidays.
CAVANAUGH: If the listeners would like to join the conversation, 1-888-895-5727. I read about this after weeks of splurging during the holidays, Americans put on an average of seven pounds. But the sequences can be even more serious for some. Give us an idea of the people who really need to watch their diets no matter what this season.
GOLDEN: There are some of us who are and have been for a while trying to lose weight. And so you really don't want to backslide. It takes so much discipline to do it that it's sort of like being an alcoholic in a way. You go off the wagon, and sometimes you never go back. So there's that group of people. There are people who have various diseases, heart disease, diabetes, just a slew of those kinds of things for which you can't really go off the wagon very easily. You can't just indulge. Because there could be consequences to that. At the moment, like, if you've got diabetes, or just the idea of putting on weight that harms your body. People who have high blood pressure can't eat salty foods. Then there are people who have celiac disease and issues with wheat and wheat products. And then we have people who for whatever their reasons are, are vegetarian or vegan and often have problems finding food to eat if they're going out.
CAVANAUGH: Sure. So does this mean that they just have to watch the holiday food parade pass them by?
GOLDEN: Okay. So let's start out. I am not a doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I am someone who is going through this. I have diabetes. I have lost about 60 pounds so far.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, I have.
GOLDEN: I do not want to put that in jeopardy. On the other hand, this is a long-term thing for me. So I have to be able to indulge a little bit. And you have to be able to know where your weak points on and where your strong suit is. For someone like me, I can deal with sweets. I'm not a big sweet person. I love to have them, but I'm someone who could take a bite of something and walk away. Don't put salty, fatty, crunchy things in front of me or I will dive into the bowl. So that is for difficult for me. I think for a lot of people like that, they have their own weak points, and they have their things that they can resist. And there are a lot of things that you can make if you're a host or if you're asked to go to a potluck, that are really delicious. And yet are healthy and healthier. There's still things that -- we're not asking anybody -- I don't think it's reasonable to expect people to live on cellary sticks at a big party. However, it would be helpful if at a big party where there is risotto and all these luscious kind of fatty, creamy foods, if you have some vegetables around.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, two of the things that you suggest for people, and actually for hosts, if they are amenable to it is portion control and switching out ingredients.
GOLDEN: I think there are a few -- I think I listed four different things that you could do. One is portion control for both the guest and the host. Switching out ingredients. One is creating new classics. Then the 4th is as I said having vegetables and fruit available in some kind of preparation, whether it's a platter of crew deat a, or if it's lightly cooked in some way. And I can give examples of some things that are really good like that and easy to do. I spoke to a bunch of different chef it is around the country, and got some input from them. I put it in my website, San Diego food stuff. And you can find some of their suggestions there. And they're really interesting, and very easy to do. Most of these chefs are dealing with patrons who have their own issues at their restaurants or if they're caterers.
CAVANAUGH: Well, something that's really sorry simple, I think that you suggested, is basically, instead of serving an entire pie or a big old thing, just plopped down, do things as you say, in smaller portions. Like do little tarts or a little fruit dish for someone instead of just having a massive spread. Because when you can color your own portions, sometimes it's too big.
GOLDEN: Exactly. One problem -- that's something I highly recommend because you can grab a tartlet of some kind, and you don't feel deprived. Everyone else has a big piece of cake, and you know you always hate that person who says oh, I'll just have a little tiny slice. So little tartlets are a great idea. Of course, the idea is not to grab five of them and walk away, which is a risk also. But that goes back to what are your weak points there? And you may have to just stay away from the table all together.
GOLDEN: And focus on talking to people.
CAVANAUGH: And you also take a famous -- a very rich dish, noodle cueingel, and describe how that can be made healthier. First of all, for people who are familiar with noodle cueingel, what makes it so rich?
GOLDEN: It's one of these classic, eastern European Jewish dishes made with egg noodles, sour cream, eggs, I mean -- and sugar, if it's a sweet cueingel. And I'm talking a noodle cueingel here. It was a thing that my grandmother made that was something I would sneak pieces of from the refrigerator at night later on. So it's something I really can't eat much of anymore. And I was talking to Ron Oliver who's a chef. And he mentioned to me he had made a version of noodle cueingel instead of the noodles though he's got spaghetti squash. And I thought, this is interesting. How is he going to pull this one off? So he sent me the recipe, which I've knot on San Diegofoodstuff, and he is using different ingredients here. So instead of the noodles, he's got spaghetti squash, instead of the cream cheese and sour cream, he is using a frommage blanc, which is sort of like a thick cream, like a sour cream, only it's made with milk instead of cream. So you have naturally lower calories. If you can't find it, you can use half low fat sour cream, and half nonfat yogurt. And you take that altogether, and he's got lovely, like, dried fruit, and all sorts of things in it, and you put it in a casserole and bake it.
CAVANAUGH: And how does it taste?
GOLDEN: Well, I only got the recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but I absolutely intend to. And I trust Ron implicitly. Of so I am sure it is going to be very good. It's not going to be exactly like a traditional noodle kugel. It can't be. But if it is good on its own merits, yay.
CAVANAUGH: And that's the idea you're trying to impart here. You can develop some new classics, especially if you're a vegan. But for other people, you can still indulge in the same find of thing you used to eat, only just a little different.
GOLDEN: One of the things that I discovered this year, and I've eaten them, you know, for years, but not really thought about it too much are whole grains. And it's very easy for us to just choose, like, white rice for something. And when you start using brown rice or you start using wheat berries or camutt or kin wa, all of these have very distinctive flavors. They're really good on their own. Wild rice is another. And instead of using just plain white rice, which doesn't have much nutritional value at all, use a whole grain. Make a salad like a wheat berry salad out of whole grains and vegetables, and you've got something that is very filling and very flavorful, and you can change it up however you want, but it's a little more nutritious, it's got more fiber, it's good for people who have diabetes and other -- heart disease, those kinds of things.
CAVANAUGH: As a host, putting on a party for the holidaying, having a group of people over, there are so many people who have dietary redistributions in one form or another. What's your obligation to guests?
GOLDEN: I feel as a guest, my hosts have no obligation to me to check in with me. Because, honestly, if you ask everybody what their issues are, you are not going to find any food that's going to satisfy everybody. Everyone's got something going on. I would say to play it safe, serve what you want but maybe have a few options there that are kind of neutral, which is why I say a great salada. . Robin bell who wrote the book, big vegan, is a wonderful cook. I have cooked with her at Rancho la puerta. And she suggests making big salads and filling them with all sorts of really delicious things. Maybe some special things like art coke hearts, things that don't have almost every day. Eve if that's the only thing I can eat, at least I have that.
CAVANAUGH: I think everybody who has dietary restrictions has an experience where they go somewhere and there's nothing they --
GOLDEN: I've had that. I have had that. And it's very frustrating. You really want to do your best. You don't want to insult the host. And you don't want to be so desperate that you eat everything because you can't eat anything. And that happens. One of the things I love making, not just for the holidays, but just for myself, kale this time of year is prolific. It's a wonderful, very hearty green. And you can make chips out of it that are absolutely delicious thought using olive oil and a little parmesan cheese and garlic. You can chop it up into bite-sized pieces, toss it with olive oil and garlic, and roast it at about 325, or you can use the whole leaf, and when you pull it out, it's a little crispy. And put some grated parmesan cheese on, and and you have these wonderful long chips to use. Of or what I do, we make wilted winter greens fillo wraps. So fillo, of course, is very, very paper-thin dough. So you're not eating a whole lot of carbs with this. You can use low-fat ricota, you saute the greens with some onion and garlic, add a little nutmeg, salt and pepper, use some low-fat ricota cheese, make the filling.
CAVANAUGH: Sounds wonderful.
GOLDEN: And you just brush the leaves with olive oil. So you have very low-fat treats that are really crunchy and have all the good stuff in them.
CAVANAUGH: And I know too one of your tips is are if people to perhaps eat something before they go to a party, especially if they don't know what's going to be 7ed just so that they have something and they're not going to indulge because they're starving. In the very short time that we have left, Karen, I know we're talking about also creating new classics, and one of them that just sounds wonderful is this root vegetable pie?
GOLDEN: Yeah, there are a number of things that people are doing -- root vegetables are great, meaty kind of vegetable. Porta bellow mushrooms are a really great alternative. A lot of people I asked suggested stuffing winter squashes with whole-wheat grains to create very hearter main dishes for people who are vegan or vegetarian. And a vegetable pie, very -- you could be creative and come up with things that almost anybody can eat. And everyone can have a good time.
CAVANAUGH: And there's a lot more information on your website. Again, tell us what that is.
GOLDEN: Www.San Diegofoodstuff.com.
CAVANAUGH: Karen, thank you so much. Happy holidays.
GOLDEN: Same to you.