Plant-Based Approach to Winter Holidays

23 Dec 2020 5:49 PM | Anonymous

Anastasia Palshina, Hunter College Dietetic Intern

Winter holidays are here. It means delicious food will be on the tables of many Americans. While the current pandemic may destroy traditional gathering plans, it will unlikely affect the contents of the American holiday table. During the holiday season there tends to be a spike in overindulgence and poor diet patterns. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 40% more calories are eaten at a holiday buffet by the average person versus dining alone.[1] Overconsumption affects people not only on Christmas or New Year’s Day, but during the whole holiday season. Families experience a lot of stress during preparation, and some people experience loneliness as well which contributes to overeating.[2] Loneliness is intensified for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of such behavior may be weight gain due to extra calories being consumed; people also may experience tiredness and mood swings due to the consumption of unhealthy food.[3] Those who suffer from preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, can have more severe consequences.

         Holiday stories often tell of people enjoying goose or pork, candy canes, and gingerbread cookies with eggnog. Unfortunately, replicating these habits at home can have dietary consequences. The type of food chosen is extremely important during the holiday season. People don’t think that goose or pork have high fat content, but these foods are high in saturated fat. The candy cane, a traditional symbol of Christmas, has 22 grams of added sugar for just one candy. The list can go on and on. No wonder that for many people the holidays are a true test of willpower.

Regardless of one's culture, the holiday table can vary significantly but they all have the same problem. Many traditional dishes, especially baked goods, contain a lot of sodium, sugar, saturated fat and even trans fat.[4] Trans fat destroys cell membranes, which is why it has been banned by law. In small amounts trans fat will not harm you. A single cookie or slice of cake is relatively harmless; however, holiday overeating can increase consumption of trans fat. Trans fat may also be hiding in shortening, cooking oil, red meat, dairy products, and butter where trans fat exists in amounts less than 0.5g per serving and is not labeled.  Several servings of these foods are likely to be on the holiday table, and overconsumption can lead to excessive trans fat intake.1 The combination of foods high in sodium and saturated fat and alcohol can spoil holidays. The condition is known as holiday heart syndrome sends many people to the hospital every year.2

            A plant-based approach may help individuals avoid such an unpleasant surprise during the holidays. A plant-based approach simply means eating mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, unsaturated oils, whole grains. It emphasizes low-sodium foods as well as low-sugar drinks. The approach does not exclude consumption of meat, poultry, fish and other animal products, however, it limits it.  Many studies show improvement in glycemic control and lipid balance in people who followed a plant-based diet, especially those with type 2 diabetes.[5],[6],[7] According to Karen Bukolt MS RDN CDN, who specialized on plant-based approach, “Most saturated fats are found in animal-based protein. By using more plant-based protein such as beans, legumes, nuts and seeds it is easy to reduce saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines.” While completely switching to a vegetarian diet is a challenge for many people, the plant-based approach during holidays can bring much more joy than stress and prevent health conditions caused by traditional food consumption.  Simply replacing some saturated fat with walnuts, which have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids (3.4g per 3 oz.) and other essential fatty acids, may help with lipid management, enhance mood, and regulate inflammation.[8],[9] Salty and fatty foods, like pork or goose, can be replaced with plant-based protein such as beans, legumes, and tempeh. Sugary treats can be replaced with more fruit-based, reduced-sugar desserts. “You can reduce sugar in most baked goods by 25% and not affect the outcome of the baked good. For example, if it calls for 1 cup of sugar, using ¾ cup will work just fine while saving almost 200 calories in the recipe!” added Ms. Bukolt. Overconsumption will not have as many detrimental consequences if the holiday table is full of healthy plant-based food.

References

1."Holiday Heart Health Secrets: Here's how to navigate a tempting holiday buffet without overeating and compromising your health." Heart” Advisor, vol. 21, no. 12, Dec. 2018, p. 4+. Gale Academic OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A563571526/AONE?u=cuny_hunter&sid=AONE&xid=e9a1ff1b. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

2."Avoid holiday heart and other seasonal threats to your health: alcohol use and overeating can lead to heart palpitations, but holiday heart isn't the only cardiovascular risk this time of year." Heart Advisor, vol. 17, no. 11, Nov. 2014, p. 4. Gale Academic

OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A387829468/AONE?u=cuny_hunter&sid=AONE&xid=92c14164 Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

3.MD ES. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626. Published March 31, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.

4. Trans fat: Double trouble for your heart. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114. Published February 13, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.

5.Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1588S-1596S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736H

6. Trepanowski JF, Varady KA. Veganism Is a Viable Alternative to Conventional Diet Therapy for Improving Blood Lipids and Glycemic Control. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(14):2004-2013. doi:10.1080/10408398.2012.736093

7.Turner-McGrievy G, Harris M. Key elements of plant-based diets associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Curr Diab Rep. 2014;14(9):524. doi: 10.1007/s11892-014-0524-y. PMID: 25084991.

8.Gropper, S., Smith J.L., Carr T.P. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Seventh edition, Student edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning, 2018; 137.

9. Kiecolt-Glaser JK;Belury MA;Andridge R;Malarkey WB;Glaser R; Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain, behavior, and immunity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21784145/. Accessed November 30, 2020.

10. ThatsVegetarian. Pear Crisp (or Apple Crisp). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBvg9WoStNE. Published October 25, 2011. Accessed December 20, 2020. 

11. Eater TA. Fireball Hot Toddy Recipe. Yummly. https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Fireball-Hot-Toddy-1723396. Published December 12, 2020. Accessed December 20, 2020. 

12. Rosales M. Stuffed Mini Portobello Mushrooms. Just A Pinch Recipes. https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/side/side-vegetable/stuffed-mini-portobello-mushrooms.html. Published January 19, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2020. 

[1] "Holiday Heart Health Secrets: Here's how to navigate a tempting holiday buffet without overeating and compromising your health." Heart” Advisor, vol. 21, no. 12, Dec. 2018, p. 4+. Gale Academic OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A563571526/AONE?u=cuny_hunter&sid=AONE&xid=e9a1ff1b. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

[2] "Avoid holiday heart and other seasonal threats to your health: alcohol use and overeating can lead to heart palpitations, but holiday heart isn't the only cardiovascular risk this time of year." Heart Advisor, vol. 17, no. 11, Nov. 2014, p. 4. Gale Academic

OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A387829468/AONE?u=cuny_hunter&sid=AONE&xid=92c14164 . Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

[3] MD ES. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626. Published March 31, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.

[4] Trans fat: Double trouble for your heart. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114. Published February 13, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.

[5] Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1588S-1596S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736H

[6] Trepanowski JF, Varady KA. Veganism Is a Viable Alternative to Conventional Diet Therapy for Improving Blood Lipids and Glycemic Control. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(14):2004-2013. doi:10.1080/10408398.2012.736093

[7] Turner-McGrievy G, Harris M. Key elements of plant-based diets associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Curr Diab Rep. 2014;14(9):524. doi: 10.1007/s11892-014-0524-y. PMID: 25084991.

[8] Gropper, S., Smith J.L., Carr T.P. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Seventh edition, Student edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning, 2018; 137.

[9] Kiecolt-Glaser JK;Belury MA;Andridge R;Malarkey WB;Glaser R; Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain, behavior, and immunity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21784145/. Accessed November 30, 2020.



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