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Is Heart-Healthy Holiday Eating Possible?

While celebrating the holiday and eating healthy may seem like a tug of war, there are strategies to help.

Don’t think all or nothing. If you had a piece of pie or two at Thanksgiving, it’s not time to give up on eating healthy. When morning rolls around, get back on track. One piece of pie, one meal or one day of overeating isn’t going to reverse everything. Go back to the basics: more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and whole grains.

Drink plenty of water before the next holiday party, and if it’s a potluck, bring something healthy that you can eat.

Portion control allows you to indulge in a piece of fudge and not feel guilty. Life is about enjoying these moments. If red velvet cake is your favorite — and you only have it this time of year — have a piece, preferably a small one, and enjoy every bite. Just don’t bring the rest of the cake home to eat later.

Be gentle on yourself. If you start the holidays with too strict rules, you’re going to break them and disappoint yourself. That strategy often sets you up for excess because you start thinking there’s no reason to keep trying.

Focus on some nonfood activities. The idea is to spend time with our loved ones, not just eat together. Take a family walk, go see some holiday decorations, or attend a holiday concert or service.

We all can survive the holidays without the dreaded – or -pound weight gain. Be intentional about the foods you really want, and leave the rest alone.

Q&A

Q: Is stevia a healthier sweetener?

A: Stevia, as well as all sweeteners on the market, have been declared safe by the Food & Drug Administration. Stevia has been on the market for more than years, and no health risks have been proven.

The stevia plant is a South American shrub in the aster family, and it has a long history of use as a sweetener. The key to any sugar substitute — or sugar — is moderation.

Many products that contain stevia, sugar or other sweeteners are nonnutritive foods such as soft drinks, candy and ice cream. So choose sparingly. Make up the bulk of your diet with foods such as whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Smoky Paprika Sheet Pan Chicken with Pears

December is National Pear Month, partly because the United States is the third largest pear-producing country in the world, after China and Argentina. Here’s a recipe to help you celebrate the sweetness of a fresh pear. It’s quick and easy for those busy holiday times.

Ingredients

» tablespoon smoked paprika

» tablespoon ground cumin

» teaspoons garlic powder

» teaspoons kosher salt

» ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

» pound ripe pears, cored and halved

» pound small potatoes in a variety of colors, halved

» ounces baby carrots, halved

» tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

» bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

» ¼ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

» Sour cream for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to degrees with rack in the bottom third of oven. In a small bowl, mix paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.

On rimmed baking sheet, combine pears, potatoes and carrots. Drizzle with tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle with ⅓ of the spice mixture, and toss to coat. Spread pears and vegetables out in an even layer. Rub chicken thighs with remaining tablespoon oil. Sprinkle both sides with remaining spices. Place chicken over pears and vegetables, spacing evenly. Roast until chicken reaches – degrees with a thermometer, about to minutes.

Transfer chicken to platter, and tent with foil to keep warm. Switch oven to broil, and place sheet pan on rack about inches below heating element. Broil pears and vegetables until lightly browned, about minutes. Divide pears and vegetables among plates. Top with cilantro and sour cream.

Details

Serves

Per serving: calories; . grams protein; . grams carbohydrates; . grams fat; . milligrams cholesterol; . milligrams sodium

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. her at email protected, or follow her on NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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