TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Amazing Health Benefits of Cinnamon

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Now you have health reasons to love the spice, too

Cinnamon is one of my feel-good foods. The scent reminds me of fall, my favorite time of year, and brings back memories of making apple pies with my mom, and celebrating the holidays.

While I’ve always been a fan of its flavor and aroma, as a nutritionist, I’m also thrilled to spread the news about cinnamon’s health benefits. For example, one teaspoon of cinnamon packs as much antioxidant potency as a half cup of blueberries, and cinnamon’s natural antimicrobial properties have been shown to fight strains of E. coli, as well as Candida yeast. Also, while technically not sweet, “sweet spices” like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger have been shown to boost satiety and mimic sweetness, which allows you to cut back on sugar in nearly anything, from your morning cup of joe to a batch of homemade muffins.

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Pretty impressive, but that’s not all. Here are five more potential health benefits of spicing things up!

Better heart health

In a recent study from Penn State, researchers found that a diet rich in spices, like cinnamon and turmeric, helped curb the negative effects of downing a fatty meal. After a high-fat meal, levels of fats in your blood known as triglycerides rise, and chronically high triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease. In this small study (in just six overweight but otherwise healthy men between 30 and 65) the results of adding spices were significant. On two separate days, volunteers added two tablespoons of spices, including cinnamon, to a fatty meal, which was tested against an identical control meal without spices. Blood samples drawn after meals revealed that in addition to 13% higher blood antioxidant levels, the spices reduced triglycerides by about 30%.

Blood sugar regulation

In research led by U.S. Department of Agriculture, scientists found that antioxidant-rich cinnamon extract helped reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. In the study, 22 obese volunteers with prediabetes were divided randomly into two groups. One was given a placebo, the other a dose of dried water-soluble cinnamon extract twice a day, along with their usual diets. Fasting blood samples collected at the beginning of the study, and after six and 12 weeks revealed that the cinnamon extract improved antioxidant status, and helped reduce blood sugar levels.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Easy Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Diet

Diabetes protection

Cinnamon has been shown to slow stomach emptying, which curbs the sharp rise in blood sugar following meals, and improves the effectiveness, or sensitivity of insulin. A University of Georgia study also found that cinnamon can prevent tissue damage and inflammation caused by high levels of blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are high, sugar bonds with proteins to form compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. AGEs activate the immune system, which triggers the inflammation and tissue damage associated with aging and diabetes. In the study, researchers found a strong and direct link between the antioxidant content of common herbs and spices, including cinnamon, and their ability to prevent AGEs from forming. This effect also further decrease the risk of heart damage, since AGEs contribute to hardening of the arteries.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Biggest Myths About Type 2 Diabetes

Better brain function

Research shows that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing, but consuming it significantly ups brain function. Scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University asked volunteers to complete computer-based tasks while chewing no gum, plain gum, or gum flavored with cinnamon, peppermint, or jasmine. Cognitive processing was boosted the most in those given cinnamon, which sped up visual-motor responses and improved attention scores. This aromatic spice may also help the brain heal. One study from scientists at the Agricultural Research Service found that cinnamon extract prevented brain cells from swelling in the ways typically seen after a traumatic brain injury or stroke.

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Parkinson’s protection

In animal research supported by grants from National Institutes of Health, scientists found that after ground cinnamon is ingested, it’s metabolized into a substance called sodium benzoate, which enters into the brain. In mice with Parkinson’s, the positive effects included neuron protection, normalized levels of neurotransmitters, and improved motor functions.

Plus, 10 ways to use it

To take advantage of cinnamon’s potential benefits, incorporate it into more meals. One of the things I love about this spice is how versatile it is. I use it in both sweet and savory dishes, and I feel like I’m always finding new ways to add it to meals, snacks, and beverages. Here are 10 easy ideas:

  • Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee, or add it to your coffee grounds before brewing.
  • Add a dash or two of cinnamon to hot oatmeal, overnight oats, or cold whole grain cereal.
  • Fold cinnamon into yogurt, along with cooked, chilled quinoa, fresh cut fruit, and nuts or seeds.
  • Freeze cinnamon in ice cubes to add zest and aroma to water or cocktails.
  • Season roasted or grilled fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Stir cinnamon into almond butter, or any nut or seed butter, and use as a dip for fresh apple or pear wedges or a filling for celery.
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon to lentil or black bean soup, or vegetarian chili.
  • Season roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, spaghetti, and butternut squash with a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Sprinkle a little cinnamon onto popped popcorn.
  • Stir a little cinnamon into melted dark chocolate and drizzle over whole nuts to make spicy ‘bark’ or use as a dip or coating for fresh fruit.

NOTE: While cinnamon is healthful, just be sure not to overdo it. Don’t take cinnamon supplements unless they have been prescribed by your physician, and check out this info from the National Library of Medicine about the potential risks for some of consuming too much cinnamon.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME psychology

5 Easy, Scientifically-Proven Tips for Controlling Your Eating Over the Holidays

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Eating slowly allows more time for the “full” feeling to kick in.

2) Eat off a small plate. Without realizing it, we often judge whether we’re done by visual cues like an empty plate.

3) Keep the serving dishes in the kitchen. Merely having to get up to get more makes us less likely to keep eating.

4) Sit next to the people who are skinny and who never eat much. We’re influenced by those around us, even if we think we’re not.

5) If you do blow it and gorge yourself there’s still an upside: overeating on Thanksgiving can make you less likely to spend so much money on Black Friday.

For more tips, check out Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. It’s by Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Food & Drink

4 Surprising Ways to Use Turkey Leftovers

turkey
Christina Holmes

From curry soup to delicious Reuben hash, F&W's Kay Chun offers up four great ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey

Turkey Curry Soup

This quick stew is rich and fragrant with curry, lime and herbs. It’s an excellent way to use leftover turkey.

In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste and 4 cups kabocha squash (1 1/2-inch pieces) and cook over high heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce and 4 cups of water; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the squash is tender. Stir in 3 cups shredded roast turkey, 3 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 cup chopped mixed cilantro and basil; season with salt and pepper.

Turkey Tonnato
Leftover turkey gets totally transformed when it’s topped with a creamy sauce made with yogurt, herbs and tuna.

In a food processor, combine one 6 1/2-ounce can drained tuna, 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas and 1/4 cup plain yogurt. With the machine on, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil. Transfer to a bowl; stir in 1/4 cup chopped capers and 1/2 cup chopped mixed tarragon, dill and chives; season with salt and pepper. Serve with roast turkey breast.

Turkey Reuben Hash
In this 25-minute hash, leftover turkey is combined with potatoes, sauerkraut and caraway for a fun play on a Reuben sandwich.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1/2 small chopped onion and 1 coarsely grated peeled baking potato and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 8 minutes. Add 1 cup drained sauerkraut, 2 cups shredded roast turkey, 2 chopped scallions and 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds. Cook until golden, 3 minutes.

Turkey-Stuffing Salad
This fresh, fun salad is a play on traditional Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing, combining turkey and croutons with celery, apple, fennel and parsley.

In a bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and lemon juice with 1/2 cup olive oil. Add 3 cups chopped roast turkey, 3 sliced celery ribs,1 sliced fennel bulb, 1 chopped crisp apple and 1 cup parsley. Season with salt and pepper; toss. Top with croutons.

This article originally appeared on Food & Wine.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Healthy Baking Swaps You Need to Try

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Healthier, more delicious desserts

For me, baking is pure bliss. I love whipping up brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pies, and cornbread. But as a nutritionist, I also want to feel good about my goodies, whether I’m eating them myself or sharing them with friends and family. To that end I’m always playing around with better-for-you ingredient substitutions.

Here are five swaps that will shore up your baked goods’ nutritional profile, while also enhancing the flavor and texture (I promise!)

Trade butter for avocado

I’ve heard avocado referred to as nature’s butter, and the name truly fits. I enjoy avocado’s creamy goodness whipped into smoothies, spread on whole grain toast, or as the base for a dip, but it’s also fantastic in baked good recipes. Just trade each tablespoon of butter in a recipe for half a tablespoon of avocado. This swap slashes calories, and still provides the satisfying texture you crave in a dessert, while also delivering heart-healthier, waistline-trimming monounsaturated fat (MUFAs for short), and significantly boosting the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant makeup of your treat. Just one note: you might want to use this trick in recipes with cocoa, which masks the color. I’ve used avocado in blondies and cookies, and while the texture and flavor were fantastic, there was a distinct green tint!

HEALTH.COM: 9 Healthier Dessert Recipes for Fall

Replace wheat flour with bean flour

While I tested negative for Celiac disease I do feel better when I avoid gluten. Fortunately there are a number of gluten-free flours ideal for baking that also add bonus fiber, protein, and nutrients. One of my favorites is garbanzo bean flour. A quarter cup packs 5g of fiber (versus just 1g in the same amount of all-purpose flour) and I love the nutty flavor and heartiness—but not heaviness—it adds to brownies and muffins. Substitute it in a one-to-one swap for all-purpose or wheat flour. It should work well in any baking recipe.

HEALTH.COM: 16 Easy, Guilt-Free Cookie Recipes

Use coconut oil in place of shortening

Shortening and coconut oil look similar in that both are generally white and solid at room temperature. The difference is shortening is solid because a liquid oil was hydrogenated to make it solid—a man-made process that’s far from natural. Partial hydrogenation creates trans fat, the nutritional villain that’s been linked to a host of health problems, from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to fertility challenges. Fully hydrogenated oil (aka interesterified oil), while technically trans fat free, may be even worse for your health. A Brandeis University study found that subjects who consumed products made with interesterified oil experienced a decrease in their “good” HDL cholesterol a significant rise in blood sugar—about a 20% spike in just four weeks.

Enter coconut oil, a natural plant-based fat, which also supplies antioxidants similar to those found in berries, grapes, and dark chocolate. While high in saturated fat, newer research confirms that not all saturated fats are bad for you. Coconut oil contains a type called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which are metabolized in a unique way. This good fat has actually been shown to up “good” HDL, reduce waist circumference, and increase calorie burning. For baking, substitute it one-for-one for shortening. It’s amazing in pie crust and chocolate chip cookies!

HEALTH.COM: Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose

Swap some sugar for pureed fruit

While fat used to be public enemy #1, today’s nutritional wisdom dictates including good fats (such as avocado and coconut oil) and shunning refined sugar. While removing it entirely in baking isn’t always possible, I have found that I can replace up to 50% of it with pureed fruit, such as bananas, pears, apples, mangoes, papayas, and dried dates or figs pureed with water. In addition to being bundled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is much less concentrated. For example, a quarter cup (4 tablespoons) of mashed banana contains less than 7 grams of sugar, compared to 12 grams in just one tablespoon of table sugar. The replacement ratio can be a little tricky, because some fruits are sweeter than others, but I often find that a quarter cup of pureed fruit can replace a half cup of sugar. (Note: I don’t like my baked goods overly sweet, so some bakers may prefer a one-to-one replacement.) And because fruit has a higher water content, you’ll also need to reduce the liquid in the recipe a bit, typically by a quarter cup.

HEALTH.COM: 23 Superfruits You Need Now

Upgrade chocolate chips to dark chocolate chunks

I’m always singing the praises of dark chocolate, and the research just keeps coming. A recent study found that gut bacteria ferment dark chocolate to produce substances that fight inflammation, a known trigger of aging and diseases, including obesity. Most of the research about chocolate’s benefits has been done with 70% dark, and the chocolate chips you’ll find in the baking aisle are likely 34% or less (I have seen one brand of 70% but it can be hard to find and quite expensive), so I recommend using a chopped dark chocolate bar instead. It’s easy peasy, and some research shows that chocolate’s aroma, which is released when it’s chopped, pre-sates the palate, which may naturally help you gobble less of the goodies. P.S. If you love chocolate, check out my vegan chocolate brownie recipe with a secret superstar ingredient (hint: it’s a veggie). To make them gluten-free use garbanzo bean flour in place of the whole wheat pastry flour.

HEALTH.COM: 7 Healthy Holiday Cookie Recipes

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Is Turkey Actually Good for You?

Gobble, gobble?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

should i eat turkey
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

4/5 experts say yes.

As if you needed our blessing—but for the most part, experts say you can feel good about your Thanksgiving main dish. All of the bird lovers applauded turkey’s lean, filling protein. It packs the entire spectrum of B vitamins, in addition to selenium and potassium.

Two experts recommended skipping the skin, if you’re watching calories. Skin adds 35 calories to a typical 3.5-ounce serving, says Harriette R. Mogul, MD, MPH, associate professor of clinical medicine at New York Medical College. And sans skin, turkey’s low in saturated fat, says Kylene Bogden, registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic.

Don’t fall for the tryptophan myth, either. Tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleepy-time serotonin, is no more abundant in turkey than in many other meats. “In truth, it’s those carbohydrate-laden trimmings, not the turkey, that promote that all too familiar post-prandial sleepiness on Thanksgiving Day,” Mogul says. Because it’s so rich in protein, turkey stabilizes insulin levels after a meal and actually diminishes sleepiness, she says.

But serving a turkey isn’t all wishbones and three-cornered hats. “Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and to enjoy the company of loved ones, and we can do that without killing an animal,” says Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization (and past subject of TIME’s 10 Questions). “In addition to all of the delicious traditional Thanksgiving dishes that are naturally plant-based, there are countless plant-based turkey alternatives widely available on the market today that make it easy to skip the dead bird.” Instead, Farm Sanctuary urges you to Adopt a Turkey for $30—color photo and “fun details about your new friend” included. Sponsor a whole flock for $210—the perfect holiday gift.

If you’re committed to eating the bird, however, choose wisely, says Stacia Clinton, RD, regional director of Health Care Without Harm. “Turkeys raised conventionally are routinely given antibiotics,” she says, in order to prevent the spread of turkey illness in crowded conditions. “This is causing the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria that threaten our health by reaching us through air, water, and contaminating the meat we purchase,” she says. This year, Health Care Without Harm asked clinicians to pledge to buy drug-free turkeys from local farms that don’t use antibiotics in feed or water.

Cage-free, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free turkeys are a must, agrees Theo Weening, global meat buyer for Whole Foods Market. But please, for the sake of flavor, make sure yours is truly fresh, too, he says—it cooks faster and tastes better. “It’s a little known fact that when you buy a ‘fresh’ turkey from many conventional grocers, it can actually be from birds that have been harvested 9 months or more before Thanksgiving,” he says. “Before taking home your turkey, ask your butcher when it was harvested and where it came from.”’

Now that’s talking turkey.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s The Scientific Way To Make A Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Prebake the crust for pumpkin pie before filling

WSF logo small

The kind of fat that goes into a pie dough can totally change the chemistry of the crust—and for a supremely flaky crust, you can’t beat lard, as former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses explains in the above selection from the 2014 World Science Festival event “Biophysics? More like Pie-o-Physics!” (Yosses is something of an authority on deliciousness; earlier this year, President Obama joked that his pies were so good he must be lacing them with crack cocaine.)

But traditional Thanksgiving fare presents additional “pie-o-physics” conundrums. Pumpkin pie filling is closer on the pastry evolutionary tree to flan or custard. Baking one requires some special considerations, according to Yosses.

In pumpkin pie, “the eggs coagulate to form a silken smooth network,” Yosses told us. “The egg proteins shrink as they cook, and you need to stop the process at the right time.” The time to remove a pumpkin pie, he says, is when it is “set,” but the center should still jiggle when shaken in the oven. “This is sensitive because too little cooking and the pie will be liquid.”

To avoid overcooking his pumpkin pies, one trick Yosses likes to employ is to lower the bottom of pie dish into cold water for about 30 seconds right after taking it out of the oven (take care not to splash water or burn yourself). This will stop the protein threads from continuing to cook.

“I like a filling made with acorn squash and some sugar pumpkin, and I love trying all kinds of vegetable and ginger variations—but then it is not really a pumpkin pie,” Yosses says. He prebakes the crust for his pumpkin pie before filling. If you do the same, but don’t want an extra-crispy edge on the crust that forms during the second round in the oven, he recommends covering the edge with aluminum foil before baking.

If any foodies reading this feel guilty about going with canned pumpkin instead of the fresh stuff, take comfort in the fact that Yosses himself often reaches for a can of Libby’s pumpkin pie mix. As he says: “Why reinvent the wheel?”

This piece originally appeared on World Science Festival.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

11 Ways to Stay Slim Through the Holiday Season

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The secret to indulging without wrecking your waist: this cheat sheet

You’ve done battle with party buffets and holiday cookies before, and even though you know what to do (fill up from the veggie platter, chew slowly, yada yada), somehow the buffet always wins. Then it’s New Year’s—and you’ve packed on an extra few pounds. But that’s not going to be you in 2015. We ditched the usual tips and tapped everyone from celebrity trainers to food pros who are constantly surrounded by temptation for their best strategies to avoid gain—without sacrificing fun.

Focus on just one healthy habit

“I try not to give myself too many rules when at a party. Instead, I zero in on a single healthy practice,” says trainer Gunnar Peterson, whose clients include Khloe Kardashian and Sofia Vergara. “It can be anything from not drinking alcohol to skipping the passed appetizers or desserts. If you give yourself one thing, you’ll likely stick to it.”

Create a workout willpower playlist

Getting psyched to exercise when there’s so much fun to be had isn’t easy. So make a new playlist with this fresh spin: “Limit the total time of all the songs to the number of minutes you want to exercise,” says SoulCycle instructor Charlee Atkins. “Then make a promise to yourself that all you have to do is listen to the songs to get through your workout.”

HEALTH.COM: 50 Holiday Foods You Shouldn’t Eat

Handle a buffet like skinny people do

Slim types are more likely than their pudgy peers to scout out a buffet before grabbing a plate, finds research by Brian Wansink, PhD, published in his new book Slim by Design. They also choose a small plate, sit 16 feet farther from the buffet and are more apt to face away from the food. So grab the bread plate instead of the dinner-size one, and once you’ve filled it, sit down somewhere a good distance from the spread.

Make water work a lot harder for you

Carry your clutch or your smartphone in one hand and a glass of water in the other, advises celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin, author of The Sugar Impact Diet: “With both your hands full, you’ll be much less likely to grab whatever sugary concoction or fattening appetizer is being passed around.” Also, make seltzer with a twist of lemon or lime your go-to drink between cocktails. It slows down consumption of alcohol and helps fill you up so you don’t eat as much later, explains Brett Hoebel, who has been a trainer on The Biggest Loser.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

Follow the three-bite rule

This one is another binge buster: “You grabbed a tart? Great. You get three bites,” Atkins says. “Use the first bite as your taste test. Is it worth another bite? If you make it to the second bite, mentally note what flavors you taste. When bite three rolls around, really savor your treat, and keep savoring it if you choose to finish it.” Truly enjoying what you eat instead of scarfing it down helps you feel more satisfied—and less likely to reach for tart number two.

Nibble like this while cooking

Sampling the cheeses as you cut and licking the frosting bowl are classic fat traps. Try this: Right before New York City food stylist Lori Powell gets busy in the kitchen, she’ll cut an apple into slices. “I snack on them as I cook. Apples have fiber and help me stay full, so I tend to nibble less.” She also tastes stuff with baby or demitasse spoons to keep servings small. Need to sample already-finished food? Take a bit, then step away from the batch. “In our job, portion control is important,” Katherine Kallinis Berman says. It’s no joke: She’s co-founder of Georgetown Cupcake and co-star of the hit series DC Cupcakes on TLC. “When trying multiple flavors,” she says, “we’ll split the cupcakes into halves or quarters so we can share.”

HEALTH.COM: 15-Minute Workout to Get Total-Body Toned

Torch calories while shopping!

Entering your credit card numbers on websites repeatedly won’t do much for calorie burn, but this will (and may help prevent overspending): “After each purchase, bang out 10 squats and 10 burpees,” suggests Adam Rosante, a trainer and founder of The People’s Bootcamp. “If you’re dress-shopping at the mall, knock out 12 triceps dips in the fitting room. You don’t need a lot of time to get a great workout.”

Have a morning-after pig-out plan

We all have moments of weakness. If you blow it, reset your body and mind ASAP so you don’t continue blowing it for weeks to come. Harley Pasternak, the star trainer behind Megan Fox and Rihanna and author of The Body Reset Diet, explains: “If I’ve had a big celebratory meal, I’ll commit to walking 10,000 steps the next day and eating protein and fiber five times a day.” The combo should contain that gnawing in your belly.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Surprising Reasons You’re Dehydrated

Sip this, skip that

A festive cocktail is an essential party favor. “Just avoid holiday drinks made with eggs, butter or heavy cream, which are like two desserts with a side of alcohol,” says Cynthia Sass, RD. “Instead, reach for simple drinks with fewer ingredients, and consciously take your time sipping rather than gulping.”

Sip: Champagne (80 calories per glass)
Mulled wine (160 calories per glass)

Skip: Cosmopolitan with candy cane (273 calories per glass)
Hot buttered rum (240 cals/11g fat per mug)

Work off dessert!

The treat:
3 milk chocolate truffles: 220 calories
Burn it off!
45-minute cardio/sculpt workout video: 214 calories

The treat:
3 Christmas cookies: 360 calories
Burn it off!
45-minute spin class: 455 calories

The treat:
3 squares of peppermint bark: 200 calories
Burn it off!
35-minute brisk walk: 208 calories

The treat:
1 slice of coffee cake: 550 calories
Burn it off!
90 minutes of skiing: 568 calories

The treat:
1 slice of pecan pie: 503 calories
Burn it off!
1 hour of ice-skating: 500 calories

HEALTH.COM: How to Lighten Up Your Favorite Holiday Foods

Little bites add up

1 tablespoon of chocolate-chip cookie dough: 90 calories

1 small handful of mixed nuts: 100 calories

2 chocolate-dipped strawberries: 74 calories

2 Swiss cheese and spinach mini quiches: 116 calories

2 1-inch macarons: 70 calories

2 goat cheese and hot pepper jelly bites: 79 calories

2 peppermint malted milk balls: 68 calories

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME advice

How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving Plate

Thanksgiving plate
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Experts estimate the average American can consume thousands of calories at Thanksgiving dinner. Here's how to approach the holiday like a nutrition pro

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

No one ever said Thanksgiving dinner was healthy. But there are certain tricks to make it a littlehealthier—and to avoid riding out an uncomfortable food coma on the couch for the rest of the night. Whether you’re doling out your own portions, or you’re at the mercy of Aunt Ida passing out plates piled high with “a little bit of everything,” knowing which foods you should be eating more of—and which you should only enjoy a few bites of—will help you make the best possible choices.

Start by filling half your plate with vegetables, then pile one-quarter up with turkey breast, and leave the remaining one-quarter for starchy sides. Here, some more expert-approved guidelines for keeping portions in check this Thanksgiving Day.

Start with soup.

Pour yourself a bowl of seasonal veggie soup, suggests Katherine Tallmadge, RD, author of Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations. She recommends a butternut squash soup, or a broccoli and carrot soup with potatoes and thyme. Kicking off your meal with soup will help you slow down while eating, and research has shown it may even reduce the number of calories you consume at your main meal.

Go crazy with the right veggies.

Fill up 50 percent of your plate with non-starchy veggies. This may include Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, or a green salad, says Lori Zanini, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Stick with smaller portions of starchy (read: higher-calorie) veggies, such as corn, potatoes, green peas, and winter squashes.

In charge of the prep? Put colorful vegetables together in dishes and use herbs, spices, onions and garlic to flavor them with fewer calories—try cooked carrots and cumin or Brussels sprouts with garlic. You can also add a healthy twist to classic comfort foods, like replacing green bean casserole with some grilled green beans flavored with garlic and red pepper flakes, Zanini says.

Make an array of interesting vegetable dishes, instead of lots of starchy dishes, suggests Tallmadge. “We tend to passively overeat when presented with variety, so if you want to give your guests a medley of dishes, have them be veggie-based,” she says.

(MORE: 100 Things to Be Thankful For This Year)

Fill up on skinless turkey breast.

The turkey itself is relatively low in calories if you stick to skinless white meat, so most of our nutritionists don’t mind if you eat a little more than the recommended 3 ounces of protein (about a size of a deck of cards or an iPhone 6 Plus, which is 5.5 inches long). “I have certainly seen individuals pile their plates with more than three times the appropriate portion size on Thanksgiving Day,” says Zanini.

“I am a big fan of protein because it keeps you fuller for longer so I would serve myself the equivalent of nearly two decks of playing cards of turkey,” says Liz Ward, RD, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better.

Scoop sides on sparingly.

Choose your favorite “special” sides that you only see around the holidays and keep servings to a half-cup. Stuffing? Worth it. A plain-old everyday roll? Not so much. One serving of starchy sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, and cranberry sauce is equal to ½ cup, which would look like half of a baseball.

Count “casseroles” of any type as your starch. “Since I am originally from the South, I know too well that even ‘veggie’ casseroles, like broccoli casserole and green bean casserole, often call for creamy soups, sticks of butter, and large amounts of cheese in their ingredient lists,” says Zanini. “Not only do these types of dishes contribute excessive amounts of calories, but they’re also very high in sodium.” Remember sodium leads to water retention and belly bloat (a.k.a. one more reason your pants won’t button tomorrow).

(MORE: Thanksgiving Games to Get the Whole Family Moving)

Practice portion control with your favorite dessert.

Most 9-inch pies are meant to be cut into eight slices. If your pie is only sliced into six pieces, your portions are probably too large. One trick if you’re trying to cut back? Tallmadge recommends limiting variety—if there’s only one type of pie to choose from, you’ll probably stick to one slice. Don’t feel like additional ice cream or whipped topping is a requirement, but if you are going to finish a slice off with some, keep it to a golf ball-sized amount.

Beware sneaky calories.

You might be patting yourself on the back for bypassing the stuffing and gravy, but if you munched on cheese and crackers all day while cooking, know that those calories add up, as well. If you’re hungry while cooking, nosh on raw veggies and hummus or fruit, suggests Tallmadge.

Drinks count, too. Many of us have large wine goblets and beer mugs and don’t even know what a proper serving looks like in those glasses. Using a measuring cup if you need to, pour 5 ounces of wine into a glass so you know the line that marks one serving. “And never refill your wine glass when you’ve had just a few sips,” Ward says. “Drink it to the last drop and then pour some more. That’s how you keep track.” A serving of beer is 12 ounces, and a serving of 80-proof distilled spirits (like gin, vodka, whiskey) is 1.5 ounces. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily intake to one drink for women and two for men.

And remember, the first couple of bites of any food are often the most enjoyable. “Don’t waste your calories, but don’t avoid your favorite foods, either,” Ward says. “Eat foods that you love and that aren’t available at other times of the year, like homemade cranberry sauce, specialty sides, and pumpkin pie, and forgo everyday foods like chips, rolls, and mashed potatoes.”

(MORE: How To Host An Incredible Thanksgiving Without Losing Your Mind)

TIME Diet/Nutrition

How to Recover After a Giant Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving meal
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Follow our experts’ step-by-step plan for getting back on track after overeating this holiday season

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

When you’re stuffed to the point of discomfort after an indulgent holiday dinner, you might be wondering what it’s going to take to feel like your healthy self again. Here, nutrition and fitness experts share advice to help you get back on track after overeating—without starving yourself or doing hours of cardio.

First things first: Stop beating yourself up!“Feeling guilty doesn’t lead to healthier eating and is more often associated with perpetuating emotional and binge eating behaviors,” says Torey Jones Armul, RDN, National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can’t go backward: Tell yourself you’ll start making healthier decisions starting right now.

Go for a walk. This can aid digestion and possibly help decrease the fat your body stores, says Marta Montenegro, exercise physiologist and nutrition specialist. One study showed that when subjects took a light walk after a high-fat meal, they decreased their post-meal triglyceride concentration (the type of fat your body stores to use for energy) by around 70 percent compared to the non-walking group.

(MORE: 100 Things to Be Thankful For This Year)

Get leftovers out of sight. Whether you encourage guests to take leftovers with them, or stick them in containers to store in your freezer, moving extra food out of sight and out of mind will help you return to your normal healthy eating routine over the next few days, Jones Armul says. “Portioning out leftover foods in single-serving containers prolongs the food’s shelf life, helps with portion control and slows down the urge to chow down on those tempting dishes,” she says.

Note the damage, but don’t let it define you. If stepping on the scale the day after Thanksgiving will help you get back on track with a healthier eating mindset, then do it, but don’t assume the scale shows true weight gain. It may be up a few notches, but that just reflects water retention, says Molly Morgan, RD, author of Skinny-Size It. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so to have actually gained three or four pounds, you would’ve had to consume more than 10,500 to 14,000 extra calories! Even though our experts and other sources estimate the average American might take in 2,000 to 4,500 calories over the course of Thanksgiving day eating, that still only adds up to about a pound at the most. “Increase your fluid intake for the next few days to help flush out the extra water,” Morgan says.

Improve your next meal. If you overdid the calories at one meal, keep the next meal lighter, but still satisfying by filling it halfway with vegetables, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. Then fill out the remainder of the plate with lean protein options.

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Track your calories for the next few days. Record your food intake on a smartphone app (like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal) or with pen and paper for a couple of days to get back to your eating routine, suggests Morgan. One study showed that self-monitoring consistently during the holiday season helped the study participants minimize weight gain.

Calm your stressed system with yoga. Your body is under stress after a big meal, says Montenegro. Yoga can help by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and relaxes the stomach nerves. Doing yoga has also been shown to increase the response of feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin and the oxytocin hormone, so you’ll feel happier, more relaxed, and ready to move on with your healthy goals after this particular overeating session. In one study, Iyengar style yoga helped reduce Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, such as abdominal pain, fatigue, constipation, and other digestive issues.

Tack on a few more intense workouts. Maximize calorie burn by doing moderate- to high-intensity exercises—they’ll increase your metabolism for 12 to 24 hours after you’re done working out, says Montenegro. Do 15 reps of each of squats, shoulder presses, lateral side raises, bent over rows, biceps curls, triceps extensions, side bends, pushups and leg raises. Then repeat the circuit one or two more times.

Focus on your food intake over the course of a week rather than day-to-day, suggests Palinski-Wade:“Don’t let one ‘bad’ meal or day define you.”

(MORE: How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving Plate)

TIME Diet/Nutrition

20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

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Any dieter's number-one obstacle: hunger! Load your plate with these super-satisfying foods and watch the pounds melt away

If the theme song for every diet you’ve tried would be “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” you should keep reading. “One of the biggest challenges when you’re trying to lose weight is combating hunger and the desire to eat,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, and Health’s contributing nutrition editor. The simple solution: eat filling foods that stick with you. “Foods that contain fiber, protein, and plant-based fat tend to be the most satiating,” Sass says. These nutrients slow down digestion and the absorption of nutrients, a process that helps you feel physically full for longer, and also means no blood sugar or insulin spikes.

While you might find some of the research that follows surprising, there are no magic potions or super bars on this list. They’re all nutrient-rich whole foods, which a recent study revealed increase calorie burning by roughly 50% compared to processed foods, adds Sass. Eating less without feeling like you’re on a diet and burning more calories? We’ll take it.

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Potatoes

“Many people still think that because potatoes have a high glycemic index they will induce cravings and weight gain, but research shows this isn’t the case,” says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, potatoes ranked number one on the famous satiety index, which was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995. During the low-carb years, they fell out of favor, but lately there’s been a renewed interest in studying their effect on diet and weight loss. After all, even though a potato is carb-heavy, it is a vegetable—one medium spud contains 168 calories with 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Some experts argue that they are particularly satisfying because of they contain resistant starch—complex starch molecules that we can’t digest.

Try this recipe: Mashed Potatoes

Apples and pears

With a satisfying crunch—or in the case of certain softer varieties, a sweet, juicy bite—pears provide a lot of bang for your buck (the dollar kind and nutritional kind). For less than $1 and around 100 calories, you get between 4 and 6 grams of appetite-suppressing fiber, plus lots of antioxidants. A recent study from Washington State University suggests that Granny Smiths are the most beneficial for our gut bacteria due to their high content of non-digestible compounds, including dietary fiber. Researchers believe that re-establishing a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon stabilizes metabolic processes, helping to increase satiety and reduce inflammation, which has been associated with chronic health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Try this recipe: Cranberry-Poached Pears

Almonds

If you’re looking for the perfect on-the-go snack, almonds might just be it. Several recent studies have found that snacking on them helps you stay satiated throughout the day, and eat less at meals. A small handful is the ideal portion size (about 1 ounce, or 22 almonds)—for 160 calories, you get a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. Bonus: they’re loaded with vitamin E, which is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

Try this recipe: Honey-Glazed Marcona Almonds

Lentils

No surprise here. People have been filling their belly with hearty lentils for thousands of years, and staying full for hours thanks to 13 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber per serving (3/4 cup). A recent study published in the journal Obesity reviewed nine randomized controlled trials that measured the effect of pulses (such as lentils, black beans, and chickpeas) on post-meal satiety. Participants felt 31% fuller after eating one serving of pulses compared to the control meals of quickly digested foods such as bread and pasta. One study published earlier this year in The FASEB Journal even found that beans were as satisfying as beef.

Try this recipe: Lentil and Chickpea Salad

Cacao nibs

You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate is heart-healthy and packed with antioxidants. But why is it so satisfying? It contains happy-making brain chemicals such as serotonin. Its health benefits come from cacao beans, but most chocolate also contains sugar. That’s why some experts advise eating the beans themselves, in the form of less-processed cacao nibs (crunchy, broken up bean bits), which offer 9 grams of fiber per ounce (compared to none in 1 ounce of a typical milk chocolate bar). “I recommend cacao nibs or dark chocolate with more than 70% cacao to my clients,” says dietitian Ashley Koff, RD, a New York-based dietitian. “You get a natural energy boost from its theobromine, a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant, plus magnesium, which is mother nature’s anti-stress mineral,” she explains.

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Hemp hearts

Also known as shelled hemp seeds, these have only recently made their way into mainstream grocery stores. Hemp—a relative of marijuana—is perfectly legal, and packs more protein than chia or flax, in addition to fiber. Since it contains a complete essential amino acid profile and is rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-3, it’s a great option for vegans who want to add more staying power to their meals. These deliciously nutty little seeds can be eaten as a topping on oatmeal, yogurt, and salads, or blended into smoothies.

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Kimchi

In addition to adding a satisfying complexity to meals, foods that have been fermented, like kimchi and sauerkraut, contain probiotics that aid digestion, says Koff. And when you keep your gut happy, it has vast positive effects on your health. One recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that maintaining healthy bacteria levels in the gut improve the functioning of the gut lining, and may help reduce fat mass, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Another study from the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Ajou University School of Medicine in Korea, which focused specifically on kimchi, had similar findings.

Try this recipe: Spicy Beef and Kimchi Stew

Lemons

Add the juice and pulp of this citrus fruit to pump up the flavor of everything from your ice water to salads, smoothies, and cooked fish, for almost no calories, recommends Koff. In addition to making the food taste better, the pectin fiber in this citrus fruit may help you fight off hunger cravings. “Lemons are also an alkaline-forming food that helps promote an optimal pH in the intestines,” she explains, which some say can help with digestion and aid in weight loss, though these claims have not yet been proven with scientific research.

Try this recipe: Halibut with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Greek yogurt

Dubost recommends dairy foods of all types to her clients, but especially higher protein options like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. The satiating effects of yogurt are especially well researched. In one study published last year in the journal Appetite, participants were given a 160-calorie yogurt snack three hours after lunch that contained either low protein, moderate protein, or high protein. Those who ate the high-protein yogurt (a Greek yogurt containing 24 grams of protein) felt full the longest, and ate dinner later than the other subjects. Some studies also suggest that the acids produced during yogurt fermentation increase satiety.

Try this recipe: Greek Yogurt Fruit Parfait

Eggs

Two large hardboiled eggs only set you back 140 calories and provide 12 grams of complete protein, which means it contains all 9 essential amino acids that your body needs but can’t make itself, says Dubost (all animal proteins offer a “complete” amino acid profile). A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that eating eggs at breakfast helped dieters feel less hungry for a full 24 hours, while also stabilizing their blood sugar levels and helping them eat fewer calories over the course of the day.

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Lean beef

Lean cuts of beef such as sirloin, tenderloin, and top round are high in protein and offer a complete amino acid profile, which make them extremely satiating. A healthy 4-ounce portion of as sirloin steak contains 200 calories and 32 grams of protein. Just don’t go overboard—even lean cuts of red meat are relatively high in saturated fat, and eating a lot of it has been associated with heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Limit yourself to one serving a week.

Try this recipe: Pepper Steak Fajitas

Broth-based soup

“Based on the latest research the most satiating foods pack plenty of protein and fiber, along with high water content,” says Dubost. Finding a food with all three of those can be tough, but a broth-based soup with vegetables and lentils or beans does it, she says. It’s well known that fiber-rich vegetables help you stay full longer for few calories. Many previous studies have demonstrated the satiating effect of soups compared to solid meals, but an interesting study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that smooth soups actually result in more fullness because they digest more slowly than chunky soups. Bring on the blender!

Try this recipe: Chicken and White Bean Soup with Greens

Hot oatmeal

When your mom told you to eat your oats, she was right. Just make sure they’re cooked. One recent study published in Nutrition Journal found that calorie-for-calorie, oatmeal cooked with nonfat milk was more satisfying than oat-based cold cereal with nonfat milk. Participants who ate about 220 calories of the hot kind for breakfast reported less hunger and increased fullness compared to the cereal eaters—possibly because satiety is enhanced by the higher viscosity of the beta-glucan in the cooked oatmeal. Another new study suggests that its resistant starch may boost beneficial gut bacteria, which—according to mounting evidence—keep the good mood brain chemicals flowing.

Try this recipe: Banana-Nut Oatmeal

Avocado

Just thinking about rich, creamy avocado is satisfying. Yes, it’s high in fat—but the good kind. Its plant-based fatty acids have anti-inflammatory benefits, which can help ease arthritis and lower risk of heart disease. Plus, half an avocado packs 7 grams of fiber. In a study published in Nutrition Journal, researchers found that adding half an avocado to lunch increased subjects’ satisfaction by 26% and reduced their desire to eat by 40% for 3 hours. Like olive oil, it increases absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, making diced avocado the perfect way to ensure your salad is delicious, filling, and fully utilized by your bod.

Try this recipe: Avocado Jewel Salad

Raspberries

Berries can be pricier than other fruits, which ups their indulgence factor and may cause you to slow down and savor, which can increase food satisfaction. Sun-ripened raspberries taste sweet, but are surprisingly low in sugar (5 grams for a whole cup) and high in fiber (8 grams per cup). Translation: a sweet tooth fix without the blood sugar spike. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that polyphenol-rich berries like raspberries may even reduce the digestion of starch in bread—and the typical insulin spike response.

Try this recipe: Chocolate Chip Pavlovas With Raspberries and Apricots

Leeks

New research indicates that gut health—which influences mood, satiety, and metabolism—is closely related to the diversity of your gut bacteria, known as your microbiome. The bacteria in your colon need to be fed dietary fiber to flourish, but most of the fiber we eat is short-chain. Only fructan and cellulose fibers (types of prebiotics) are long enough to survive all the way down the GI tract, according to Jeff Leach, founder of the American Gut Project. Leeks are one of the top sources of fructan (10 grams per leek) and cellulose. One caveat: Cooking shortens the fiber chain, so to reap the maximum benefits, eat raw or lightly sauteed.

Try this recipe: Leek and Broccoli Tartlets with Pancetta

Quinoa

Even though it’s categorized as a grain, and treated like one in recipes, quinoa is technically the seed of a plant related to spinach, beets, and chard. Ever since it was first stocked at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in 2007, it has exploded in popularity as a gluten-free, vegan source of “complete” protein, with 8 grams per cup cooked. It also has almost double the fiber of brown rice, which gives it extra hunger-squashing power, says Sass.

Try this recipe: 15 Creative Quinoa Recipes

Fish

Fish is another very efficient source of protein. Many types of white fish are extremely lean, and fattier varieties such as salmon pack healthy omega-3 fats. Some studies suggest that fish protein may be slightly more satiating than beef protein, but more research is needed to explain why. One possible explanation is that fish are naturally high in the amino acid L-glutamate, which is associated with umami, a savory-rich taste linked to satiety.

Try this recipe: Artichoke-Parmesan Stuffed Tilapia

Popcorn

Did you know popcorn is a whole grain? Yep. Four cups contain 3 grams of fiber and protein each. But its biggest trick is volume. Four cups takes up a lot of room in your stomach and as long as you eat it with only a little salt and tiny bit of oil, that size serving will set you back less than 150 calories. One study found that snacking on popcorn helped dieters satisfy their hunger while staying on track with their weight-loss plan.

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Flax Seed

“In my experience, both personally and with my clients, seeds are incredibly filling and satiating,” says Sass. One study from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found that meals supplemented with 2.4 grams of flaxseed fiber promoted a greater feeling of satiety and fullness in men compared to meals without the fiber. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains 37 calories, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which includes omega-3s and 2 grams of fiber. Note: whole flaxseeds will pass through your system without being digested, so buy them ground or do it yourself using a spice grinder.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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