Meal Planner Series: Crafting a Tasty, Healthy Holiday Meal

Registered Sports Dietician Bianca de la Rosa joins Coach Crystal to help you find the balance for a great holiday meal that everyone can enjoy!

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Crystal: Welcome to the MetPro Method Podcast. I am your host, Crystal O'Keefe, and today I am joined by MetPro Coach Bianca de La Rosa, and today we're discussing cooking a holiday meal. Bianca, you are registered sports dietician, so I feel like you are the perfect person to discuss this very thing. Thank you so much for being here today.

Bianca: Yeah. Thanks so much, Crystal. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to talk about all things meals and nutritious and macronutrients and all that good stuff. So excited to be here.

Crystal: I am very excited to have you here. I think we should start with some basics. So, what kind of nutrition factors do we need to keep in mind as we prepare this meal?

Bianca: Yeah, absolutely. So, I always like to think about, “How can we make these meals as nutritious as possible?” And veggies are definitely a big one. You know that there's going to be some good complex carbohydrates in there. Things that are rich in complex carbohydrates such as root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, that are high in fiber, parsnips beets, carrots, things like that.

That's a really good veggie, to have, leafy vegetables like kale or spinach, collard greens, things like that. And then also thinking about like different ways of how we can make the actual ingredients in food more nutritious as well. One thing I like to think about is how can we make some of those swaps, which is a nutrition factor of, okay, if we're going to be making chicken or turkey, can we somehow add like a bone broth in there and get more protein?

Oh, if you're doing like mashed potatoes, can you add some yogurt in there to get more nutrition and more protein too? So little things like that. Um, swaps, veggies. All good stuff.

Crystal: All right. Now, I can hear the skeptics at home. Now when we add things like that. The bone broth, I feel like there's probably not too much of a taste difference, but that yogurt and that mashed potatoes, are you sure we're not going to taste too much of a difference?

Bianca: As someone that has actually tried this before? And I love my mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and everything else. I'm here to tell you that Greek yogurts, non-fat, non-flavored, you cannot taste it in mashed potatoes. Wow. Um, now, I mean, of course you can add a little bit of butter, but actually, believe it or not, the Greek yogurt makes these mashed potatoes more creamy and more whipped, which gives it a nice consistency.

So, it's one of those things that you would never think to add to something, but it really does work. The same thing with like creamy sauces or dressing, salad dressing, stuff like that. You can do easy swaps of adding in like yogurts, apple cider vinegar, things like that that just kind of like make it healthier and more nutritious.

Crystal: Okay. Is there any kind of like rule of thumb, as far as like how much you would put in instead of milk or something like that?

Bianca: So, for mashed potatoes, say that you were making like two or three pounds of mashed potatoes, I would probably put like about half a cup of Greek yogurt in there.

Um, anything more than that might taste a little bit different, but half a cup would probably be pretty good.

Crystal: Okay. Okay. Very easy to do then now. Yeah. How do you go about kind of balancing that very tricky spot between healthy and tasty?

Bianca: Yeah, absolutely. And again, this kind of brings us into the topic of like swaps and stuff like that.
If you're making it yourself, it's going to be a little bit easier. But if you're bringing one dish to a family gathering or a party or something like that, you know, there's going to be lots of food there that you don't know what's in it. You don't know who made what with what ingredients.

So, you know, trying to pick things that are going to be a little bit healthier. Really focusing on your proteins. Protein is going to help keep you full and satisfied. Whether that protein is, salami or like little turkey bites or things like that. And then really having a big focus on veggies.

You know, I'm sure there's going to be sauces and stuff like that on top of them, but those veggies are going to contain a lot of fiber in them that, again, is going to keep you full and satisfied. So, kind of making your rounds, but still obviously, you know, enjoying the food that you have there. It's a fine balance between the two.

There's always this one thing. That I like to tell my clients at MetPro is, a good rule of thumb is have one bite of everything. You know now. Not everything that's on the table, but maybe a couple of, you know, your few favorite things and have a bite of it because that first bite is going to give you a lot of happiness.

It's going to still give you some enjoyment of the foods that you enjoy too.

Crystal: So, I think that's a great rule of thumb, because you also get to taste everything that way. And there's never enough room on your plate if you go towards two or three things, you know, you don't have room for everything.

Bianca: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

Crystal: Now you mentioned, focusing on protein and focusing on the root veggies. Are those the best macronutrients to focus on? Is there some kind of ratio we should be looking at?

Bianca: Yeah, that's a great question. So, protein and complex carbohydrates, I love both of those because for one, those complex carbohydrates are really going to help balance out your blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Meaning that you're not going to feel tired or super low energy throughout the day, but also they're going to help hold you over until your next meal so you aren't starving and ravenous by the time, you know, dinner comes or things like that. And protein, yes, that is also going to be super helpful as well.

So, protein, complex carbohydrates, and then any other vegetables that you can go towards. Fats are a little bit harder because I'm pretty sure there's not going to be, you know, avocado or, maybe there might be some, unsalted nuts out. But a lot of your fat is probably going to be coming from turkey drippings, cheese, or things like that.

So that's our normal macronutrient. I don't really touch on too, too much, but, protein would probably want to be the first one that you go towards. So ratio wise, I would probably try to have more protein than complex carbohydrates. And then, fats not too concerned about that because they're probably already going to be in the things that you're eating.

Crystal: Yeah, I was kind of thinking if it's my family cooking, oh I guaranteed they are covered.
Bianca: Exactly, exactly. I mean, fat is one of those macronutrients that's, I mean, it's in everything so it's inevitable. You don't want to be eating too much fat above anything else. Because then you're really going to not feel so great by the end of the night.

Crystal: When you mentioned the vegetables, how do you kind of get your vegetables in there whenever they might be in the middle of a casserole or maybe they're in some, you know, they're not just green beans but they're dressed up in some way.

How do we keep that in context with those complex carbohydrates?

Bianca: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, you're going to have things like sweet potato casserole or maybe green bean casserole, broccoli and cheese casserole and things like that. So again, they're going to be loaded with other ingredients, but, you never want to be that person that's pushing everything aside and just trying to pull out the veggies. But, you know, at the very least you can. If you are getting in some type of veggie, then that’s a good thing.

So you know, if you are, if you're kind of able to maybe scoop out more of like those beans or more of the broccoli, that would be great. And then trying not to add maybe other toppings, like more cheese on top or more gravy on top, because that really is going to increase the carb load, but then also the fat content too.

So, yeah, hopefully that's a little bit more of a helpful navigation to getting in some good veggies. Another thing I was going to say too, Crystal, is actually this brings me back to a little bit of what you were saying about how do you balance healthy and tasty. When we're talking about including extra veggies and stuff like that, herbs and spices are actually a really great way to incorporate some of that too.

Crystal: What a good point. Yeah.

Bianca:Yeah. Those herbs and spices, whether it is on like turkey or chicken or mashed sweet potatoes or things like that. Those are all forms and really great ways to be able to include ingredients that are going to be, anti-inflammatory. So really, good tip that a lot of people don't think about herbs and spices as super important.

Crystal: What an excellent point. What about if you're creating a holiday meal, and we're kind of thinking about this as an overview, if a person has their choice, would you recommend that they have everybody bring something, order in, or create their own meal from scratch? If they can pick.

Bianca: So, in a perfect world, if everybody could create their own meal from scratch, that would be really nice. Especially for some of those people that maybe are a little bit more health conscious or, you know, they're focusing on weight or they have common goals with other friends. It would be nice because you know exactly what's going into your meals and your preparation and your recipe.

We never really quite know what's going to be in there or add it in there if you order out or, you know, pick up something to go. So, not saying that it's bad by any means, because love a great to go meal. In the perspective of trying to stay on track and stay healthy, it would be nice to make your own dish.

And even if you do go to a party or a gathering, making your own dish allows you to bring something that you know you'll enjoy. But also, you might open up other people's perspectives of, oh, wow I didn't know that this brussel sprout and cranberry dish was going to be so great. I've seen it before, but never tried it, so that could be helpful.

Crystal: That's a great point too. Get people to be a little more open-minded about things and try things they haven't tried before.

Bianca: Yep, exactly.

Crystal: Okay, I got a tricky one for you. What about alcohol? How do we navigate that?

Bianca: Yeah. This is the question of the year, and I get it every single day at this point. So alcohol is one of those things, when you are trying to keep up with your goals, it is of course going to slow you down a little bit. But really trying to stay away from the cocktails, the high sugary drinks, the mixers and things like that are going to be super important.

If we were to have a pick of liquors, you would probably want to try more of clear versus like dark, or if you're going to have wine, have red wine versus white. Red wine is going to have less sugar, whereas clear liquor is also going to have less sugar and lower in carbohydrates than your darker drinks.

So, you can pair that with club soda and try to pick club soda over tonic because it's going to be lower in carbohydrates. That's a big one right there. But you can add in garnishes like mints or cucumber, berries, things like that. One of my friends, one of my clients told me, she's my friend and my client, but she told me sometimes to trick everybody, she'll just walk around with a fancy wine glass and put some sparkling water in there and add in some berries.

You still get to act like you're drinking, but you still get to stay on your goals.

Crystal: Yeah, those are all good tips, but you bring up an excellent point about peer pressure. You know, there's always those well-meaning friends or family members that say things like, “Well, why aren't you eating my homemade pie?”

“Why aren't you having a drink? You already look great. Why are you trying to lose weight?” – What do we do about that?

Bianca: I think the biggest thing is just trying to get friends and family to understand that this is your journey. You're trying to stay on track with your health goals and your health goal doesn't necessarily mean, I have to drink alcohol right now. That doesn't resonate with my happiness with you because my time is spending time with you not necessarily drinking this alcohol.

So the two things are very separate and I think if people really, truly understand that, I'm here with you right now. I'm having fun with you right now, and we're being present in this conversation. And I don't have to have, you know, alcohol or have dessert in order to make me happy right now. My happiness is really being here with you.

Crystal: Yeah. That's such a loaded topic because I feel like, as a society in general, we just tend to put food and drink with everything that we do.

Bianca: Yeah. And it's, it's. It's good or bad, it's celebratory or sad moments, you know?

Crystal: Yeah. It's whether you're going to a funeral or going to a holiday meal, there's food, there's always food.
Bianca: It's totally true. Food is really just, it's, it's food central. Everything is gathered around food, whether it's a party or a funeral, exactly what you said.

And so, there are ways to navigate around it, but having, especially at MetPro, having a good coach that can help you with like, tips and tricks of how to navigate through that is going to be super important. So, it's always there, but just, you know, keeping true to yourself and knowing that your health comes first more than anything else.

And you know, you want to start the new year with your health and maybe not 10 pounds heavier. And I am definitely one of those people, I am at risk to be one of those people. I have to really watch it.

It's hard. I mean, you know, I think like when, especially, uh, these times like coming out of covid when we finally get to like, have these gatherings, you know, it's kind of like all in or all out, but there is a way to have a happy medium. It's just about learning how to get back at that happy medium.

So, um, yeah, it's there. Food is always going to be there. Alcohol is always going to be there, but really trying to focus on that mind shift change is going to be so helpful and less stressful for anybody too that, you know, has to go to work parties or like work dinners or lots of good things like that.

So, it is achievable as long as you set your mind to it.

Crystal: That is so true, and I've been doing MetPro as a coach for a while now, but I've also been doing MetPro as a client for a long time now, and I feel like the biggest thing that I have noticed about myself is that mind shift.

You nailed it. Where it's like it doesn't have to be all or nothing. I can have a bite, I can have a cup of ice cream. It's okay. It's just I don't need to have a cup of ice cream every time somebody else has a cup of ice cream, .

Bianca: Exactly. Exactly. And also, something to think about is whenever we start to incorporate those types of things, I like to talk a lot with my clients about, okay, so we had a great party meal.

We had a good holiday gathering or things like that. And so the next day get back on track. You don't have to wait until next week. By all means do not wait until next year because you'll put yourself in this rabbit hole that it's very, very difficult to come out of. As soon as that gathering is done, that party is done, the next day, get back on track. Get to drinking your water, get your meals in, get some exercise, whether that's walking or any type of movement.

It's just going to make you feel better too.

Crystal: Oh, hashtag facts. I mean, it is crazy how you can do like all these healthy things for so long and then it just takes one day that you can slide back into old habits if you let yourself. Don't get me wrong, enjoy all the things that you want to enjoy on those days, but it doesn't have to be like, now we have a week of that and which turns into two weeks, which turns into a month before you know it.

Bianca: Absolutely

Yeah, it's, it's so true. It takes a long time to make a habit. It takes a long time to break a habit too, and the only way to break those habits is to kind of sit a little bit in that discomfort and move past it and just rip that bandaid off and continue. It really is true. It takes some time, but you know, ultimately, you got to do it.

Crystal: It's worth the work that you put into it.

Bianca: Totally. A hundred percent.

Crystal: Having said all these amazing ideas that you have and, tips that you have, do you have kind of a suggested recipe that people might find useful for one of their holiday gatherings?

Bianca: Yes. I think everybody, everybody has to love this. And if you don't, tell me, okay, DM me on Instagram and tell me why. So a good fall harvest salad, which is full of roasted brussel sprouts and roasted butternut squash. I love roasting like pecans or almonds too, so you have good macronutrients of healthy fats and also complex carbohydrates. But also if you want to add extra protein in there, you can add tofu or chicken or things like that. And then making it with a really nice apple cider vinegarette dressing, with honey and lemon. Mixing it together. It's always a nice go-to to bring to a party just cause you know, someone's always going to be eating some type of salad, so, fall harvest salad. It's a good one for sure.

Crystal: Is that served hot or cold?

Bianca: So you could do either really. Yep. Some people do like the salad cold. That's probably my preference. But some people also like it warm as well. If you were to do a warm salad, you could add a little bit of like goat cheese on it too.

Mm-hmm… or some type of like feta cheese and kind of have that melted. That could be really good. Um, is it lunchtime yet? No, it's not. So warm or cold, either one would be really good.

Crystal: Okay. All right. Challenge, and like you said, people should DM you on Instagram. What's your Instagram handle?

Bianca: Yes, it is @fitfoodiecravings_rd. I post lots of good recipes. Let me know first though if it is MetPro approved, because some of them may or may not be so. Let me know, but yes, please follow me. I'd love to share some good recipes with you, especially coming up for all the good parties and all that good stuff.

Crystal: Oh, that's fun. I love it. Okay. Did we forget anything? Was there anything else that people should know when they're thinking about cooking a holiday meal?

Bianca: The last thing I would say is, don't forget to eat. A lot of people, when they're cooking throughout the day, will eat and they will unintentionally fast.

Make sure to eat something, whether it is a snack, have breakfast first thing in the morning, so at least you have a solid meal to keep you full and satisfied until your next snack. But don't fast that way you can not overeat during your meal. Feel good and not so lethargic and tired. That is super important, making sure that you're eating while you're cooking.

Crystal: That is excellent advice. Yeah. You don't want to be feeling out of steam by the time everybody gets there, or you get wherever you are going.

Bianca: It happens so often and you don't want to compromise your metabolic system either or your rate just because you miss a full day of eating and then come dinner time, you're having this huge meal and it just sends you over the edge. So, don't forget to eat out there.

Crystal: That is good advice. Bianca, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Bianca: Thanks so much, Crystal, for having me.

Crystal: Well, listeners, that's all for this week. You can find all the MetPro Method episodes anywhere you get podcasts, or you can go to

Please be sure to follow the show and rate and review that lets other people know what they can expect from the show. You can also learn more about Metpro at I'm your host, Crystal O'Keefe, and I'll be back next week. Until then, remember, consistency is key.

Done with Dieting with MetPro

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