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Healthy Holiday Meal Tips

Although the holidays are a joyous time for some, for those struggling with an eating disorder, food, or weight issues, the food-focused season can feel stressful and overwhelming. Holiday meals can be especially challenging, and may be a source of anxiety even months before they happen.
My holiday wish for you is to find some peace with food this season. Here are my tips to help you survive and hopefully enjoy holiday meals this year.

Holiday Meal Survival Tips

1. Find out how the meal will be served (buffet style, seated dinner, etc.) and what types of food will be offered (multiple courses, appetizers, dessert, etc). Having an idea of what to expect can help you plan your other meals and manage your emotions.
2. Don’t “save up” or “make up” for holiday meals.  Try to continue with your regular meal and snack pattern both before and after holiday events.
3. Aim to be hungry, but not starving, for holiday meals. Keep in mind that getting too hungry can lead to overeating, and can also affect your mood and decrease your ability to handle stress!
4. When many different choices are offered, first take a moment to survey all the food. Then choose the foods you will really enjoy eating. Don’t feel obligated to eat raw broccoli because it is “good for you,” or eat a tasteless casserole because grandma made it just for you.  
5. Think about how you would like to feel after the meal – Satisfied? Comfortably full? With room left for dessert? Keep this goal in mind while eating your meal.
6. Eat mindfully. Minimize distractions and try to avoid mindless grazing. Notice the aroma, appearance, texture, and taste of what you are eating. Really savor your favorite foods. If you don’t like how a food tastes or makes you feel, you don’t have to eat it.
7. Focus on enjoying the company of your family and friends. Interesting, engaging conversations and fun, non-food activities can help quiet uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Wishing you a Peaceful and Healthy Holiday Season!

Reader Question

Q: I’m lactose intolerant. What is the best milk substitute? SM
A:  Milk is a good source of several important nutrients, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Fortunately, there are many alternatives for those who cannot drink, or prefer not to drink, regular cow’s milk.
Lactose intolerance is usually caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase – this enzyme helps us break down and digest the milk sugar, lactose. Lactose-free milk options (such as Lactaid and Organic Valley Lactose-free) make up for this deficiency by adding the lactase enzyme directly to the milk, and are tolerated well by most people with lactose intolerance. Fat-free, 1%, 2%, and full-fat varieties are available and are basically nutritionally equivalent to their lactose-containing counterparts.
For vegans, or others who prefer not to drink dairy milk, there are many plant-based alternatives, with soy, almond, rice, and coconut milk being the most common. The best option for you will depend on your personal taste preference and nutrient needs. Here are some things to keep in mind when making your selection:
-Most plant-based options have added vitamins and minerals, but the nutrient amounts vary from brand to brand. Choose a milk substitute with calcium and vitamin D levels similar to cow’s milk – 30% DV of calcium and 25% DV of vitamin D (DV = Daily Value).
-If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and are concerned about your vitamin B12 intake, choose a plant-based milk that is fortified with B12.
-Soymilk is the only plant-based milk with the same amount of protein per serving as cow’s milk.
-Most rice, almond, and coconut milk varieties offer little to no protein.
-Some brands of almond milk offer options with added protein (usually pea protein) – bringing the protein level to about 5 grams per cup (vs. 8 grams per cup in cow’s milk and soymilk).
-If you opt for a low-protein milk alternative, make sure you are getting enough protein from other sources in your diet.
-Coconut milk is high in saturated fat and may not be a good option for those trying to limit saturated fat intake.
-Unsweetened varieties are usually lower in sugar and calories and may be more versatile. Flavored options can be a good choice for those with higher calorie and carbohydrate needs.
Do you have a burning nutrition question? Email your question to: question@msnutrition.com and it may be answered in the next newsletter!

November 2014


In this issue:

Nutrition Article: Healthy Holiday Meal Tips

Reader Question: What is the Best Milk Substitute?

Product Review: PULSE Roasted Chickpeas

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Nutrition Product Review

PULSE Roasted Chickpeas – Sea Salt & Garlic Flavor

$3.49 at Whole Foods (for 2 oz bag)

What they are

Baked organic chickpeas flavored with salt, garlic powder, and olive oil (those are the only 4 ingredients).


My experience

These roasted chickpeas taste very similar to soy nuts, with a drier, crunchier texture. They are lightly salted and have a very mild garlic flavor.



This snack gets an “A” for its nutrition stats. A 1 oz serving (1/2 the bag) has: 110 calories, 2 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 110 mg of sodium. The simple ingredient list is also a plus.


Although I really wanted to like these, I was not a big fan of how they tasted. At $3.49 for just 2 oz, they are a bit expensive.

Bottom line

Personally, I wouldn’t buy this flavor again (I would try the Spicy Lemon Zest flavor). But, if you like soy nuts (I don’t), these roasted chickpeas are worth a try. They would make a good snack on their own, or would work well added to a salad or trail mix. The PULSE Roasted Chickpeas are soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free, making them a good choice if you have those dietary restrictions.

I purchased this product myself and have not been compensated in any way to write this review.

About Monika

Monika Saigal, MS, RD, CDN is the founder of MS NUTRITION, a nutrition counseling and consulting practice based in New York City.

Her areas of specialty include: eating disorders, weight management, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive issues, vegetarian nutrition, general wellness & disease prevention, and nutrition for dancers.

Looking for more nutrition tips? Need help sorting out nutrition fact from fiction? Want Monika's take on hot nutrition topics?

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