Have a 'Planti-ful' holiday season

  • Published
  • By Capt. Denise Campbell and Staff Sgt. Katherine Solis
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains tend to take a backseat on most holiday tables in a season of turkey, ham and the Internet sensation "bacon explosion." The days between Oct. 31 and Dec. 31 present a calorie-dense obstacle course. So this year, give yourself the gift of good health by incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet.

Keep in mind that "plant-based" does not mean you have to fill your plate with "tofurky" and boiled greens. Plant-based is a term that describes filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables and a quarter with whole grains, which is what the Department of Agriculture program MyPlate recommends to do all year long.

Having a plan is important when trying to eat more plant foods. Make it a rule for yourself to fill half of your plate with colorful vegetables and fruit at each gathering you attend this year. By filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, you leave less room for the butter- and sugar -filled sides and entrees, while still having a full plate of food.

When preparing plant-based buffet options alongside animal proteins, it is important to avoid cross contamination. Cross contamination is the transfer of bacteria from one food source to another food source.  A common example is using the same cutting board and knives to cut raw chicken and vegetables.

To avoid cross contamination, wash hands, cutlery and cutting boards frequently, especially when preparing foods that will be cooked and others that will not be cooked. A helpful tip is to use color-coded cutting boards and knives as visual reminders.

Another idea is to double the vegetables in recipes that already call for them. If you are preparing a casserole that calls for peas, carrots or broccoli, double up on the vegetables and decrease the rice or pasta by one-third to one-half.

You can also add beans or mushrooms to meals that traditionally use ground meat, such as chili, lasagna, stews or burritos. The meat-like texture of beans and mushrooms allows you to decrease the ground meat by half in a recipe to boost the fiber and healthy plant chemicals while maintaining that comfort food flavor and texture.

If you would like to add some plant-power to your baked goods, replace eggs with ground flaxseed meal or chia seeds. To replace butter or oil, experiment with silken tofu, applesauce, or mashed banana, pumpkin or avocado.

If these suggestions seem daunting, start small.

There will be upcoming cooking demonstrations to encourage more plants in your meals this holiday season Dec. 5 at the Eifel Powerhaus Fitness Center. Join us and learn how to give the gift of good health.