How to Have Healthy Holidays (Plus a Recipe)


“This year especially, it’s more important than ever for us to nourish our bodies in a healthy manner,” said Esther Lejtman, clinical nutrition manager at Lifebridge Health (both Sinai Hospital and Levindale Geriatric Center). “We need to boost our immune system and focus on the vegetables and vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals to help us be more healthy during the pandemic.”

She and Penina Goldberg, a Lifebridge clinical dietitian, will present a program hosted by The Associated Women, the JCC and Lifebridge Health to help participants be mindful of what they eat during the holidays. The online talk, which will take place Sept. 1 from 7:30-9 p.m., will offer tips and recipes for a healthier approach to menu planning. You can register on The Associated’s website.

The Associated Women initiated the event in partnership with the JCC, which helps the nonprofit plan events. Lifebridge often adds health and diet elements to their programs.

Single raw salmon steak on wooden cutting board. Some ingredients for cooking salmon like lime, salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil are visible on background. DSRL studio photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (fcafotodigital
via E+)

Dietitians Lejtman and Goldberg will keep to a theme of “healthy new year, healthy you” according to Lejtman. “The program is basically how to revamp our holiday meals to be more helpful. There are so many meals in the holidays, and they’re each one after another. There’s Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which is fasting but you eat large meals before and after it. There are up to 14 meals in total.”

If someone prepares all the traditional courses, each of those 14 meals can contains a full day’s allotment of calories, she said.

“So first of all, we want to make people aware of this. Then we want to revamp those meals without sacrificing the taste,” Lejtman said. “There’s no reason these meals can’t be healthy and tasty. We’re going to do an extreme meal makeover.”

Lejtman shared that they’ll offer tips on healthier desserts, ways to switch refined grains for whole grains and how to incorporate more protein and less fats. One idea is to switch noodles for zucchini noodles, or zoodles.

Shwarma chicken kebab
Shwarma chicken kebab (nosher)

The program will share recipes that put a healthy spin on traditional foods. They’ll also go over a fact sheet on how the symbolic fruits are also nutritionally good for you. “There are health benefits to eating the symbolic berries,” Lejtman hinted.

They’ll also review portion sizes. “We’re going to talk about how half the plate should be vegetables and fruits, and about how when you serve protein, all you need is three ounces, which is the size of your palm. So we’ll be giving you visuals,” Lejtman said. \

The dietitians also plan to keep in mind what’s likely in your cabinet and what is available. “It’s both practical tips and ways to make meals festive and nutritious,” Lejtman said.

As a Jewish grandmother herself, she recognizes the cultural power of cooking and sharing traditional meals. “My mother cooked certain foods like brisket, sweet carrots and fresh apple pies,” Lejtman reminisced. “As a dietitian, of course I want to recreate those foods my mom made, but I try to my best ability to keep in mind the health of my family while I do it.”

Grilled Chicken With Apples and Honey

Serves 4
278 calorie, 25 gram protein, 8 gram fat per chicken breast

Apples and honey are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize that the new year should be sweet. Apples are high in the antioxidant quercetin, which can help lung function and lower the risk of gout as well as certain cancers. Honey also contains antioxidant properties. The darker the color of the honey, the higher the content.

¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoon olive oil, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (each approximately 4 oz)
4 medium peeled, cored and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples
½ medium onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the boiler or grill. Combine wine, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.

Brush chicken breasts evenly with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil.

Grill or broil the chicken long enough on each side until it’s fully cooked (chicken is no longer pink in the middle and juice run clear). Set aside.

While chicken is cooking, heat remaining 3 teaspoons of oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Add the apples, onion and wine mixture. Stir frequently, cooking for 8-10 minutes until the apples are tender and liquid thickens slight to sauce consistency. Pour the apple sauce over the chicken and serve hot.

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