From the first bite of gravy-smothered turkey to the last sip of eggnog, the holidays can be hard on heart health. But the six ladies of the Live Longer & Stronger Challenge entered the season armed with slimmed-down recipes and strategies for continuing their weight loss-efforts (to date, they’ve lost a combined 265.4 pounds!). Find out what worked for them—and how you can have a happy, healthy holiday, too.
Mikita, who’s lost 45 pounds on the Challenge so far, started the season off on the right foot—literally—by participating in a Turkey trot with friends to get into a healthy mindset. Instead of indulging at her big holiday meal, she plans to start the dinner with a large salad, help herself to a couple small scoops of her favorite dishes (like mac and cheese), and then sit back and enjoy being with her kids. Shifting the focus from food to family time will make it easier for Mikita to continue with her weight loss.
In addition to a slimmer figure (Sandra is down 92 pounds to date), her holiday spread has slimmed down too. This year, she’s swapping out high-cal dishes such as candied yams, buttery dinner rolls and pecan pie for healthier recipes like fresh green beans with crimini mushrooms (recipe below), whole wheat rolls and Joy Bauer’s . The new dishes are packed with heart-healthy veggies and whole grains, while the portion-controlled dessert allows Sandra and her family to indulge without going overboard.
Green Beans with Mushrooms
1 1/2 lbs French string beans, ends removed
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 C crimini mushrooms, sliced
black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 T olive oil
dash of Kosher salt
lemon juice, to taste
1. Blanch string beans in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, drain and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium head. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the string beans and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss together and plate.
3. Add mushrooms to sauté pan (there should still be residual oil coating the pan), and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and spoon on top of string beans. Top with lemon juice and more black pepper if needed.
Crystal spends her holidays visiting family, which means she has little control over the menu. In order to stay on track (she’s already lost 20.4 pounds), she’s committed to starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast like lowfat yogurt and fruit or an egg white omelet stuffed with veggies. The healthy morning meal fills her up so she’s less tempted to overeat at dinnertime.
Jennifer knows she can’t get rid of high-calorie favorites like glazed baked ham, since her two young children love the dishes. But she is introducing some new, healthier options to the table this year. Two recipes on her menu are Joy Bauer’s and . Once the meal is over, she plans to send her guests off with doggy bags containing leftovers. Clearing her fridge of temptations is a smart way to help continue her losing streak: So far she’s dropped 45 pounds on the Challenge!
Antoinette has lost 33 pounds, and she’s determined to not let the holidays throw her off course. At Thanksgiving, she tweaked her stuffing recipe to cut calories without sacrificing taste: Instead of a bread-based dish, she made a bulgur stuffing tossed with cranberries and hazelnuts. Now that the holidays are in full swing, she keeps her purse packed with healthy snacks. If she gets hungry while shopping, she can reach for a nutritious option instead of hitting the mall’s food court.
Deborah wants to keep up the momentum from her 30-pound loss, so she plans to kick off each big meal or party with a low-calorie appetizer such as a shrimp cocktail plate (one shrimp clocks in at about seven calories) or a platter of celery and olives. She’ll also focus on heart-healthy cooking techniques, such as using vegetable broth, spices and fresh lemon juice to replace oils and salts in her recipes.