Make It a No Gain December

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Are your holidays filled with family traditions, gatherings, and irresistible food? Of course, it’s not unusual to gain a pound or two or three over the holiday season if you’re like most people. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. If you make smart and healthy choices, you can still enjoy yourself without needing a new year’s resolution to lose the holiday gain.


Let’s start here: 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


Trade the negative self-talk about avoiding the holiday cookies—think about what healthy foods you can add to your eating plan.


Stay holiday active! An effective way to maintain or lose body weight is to exercise regularly. Then, burn the extra calories by adding another 10 minutes daily to your exercise routine. For example, if you exercise three times a week, add a fourth session and increase the intensity of your activity (check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program).


It’s OK to cheat a little. Cut your sweet servings in half and limit your alcohol intake. You can still enjoy your favorite pie made by your mom – but in moderation! Everyone wants to splurge a little, but the key is not allowing the splurge to become a habit. The goal is to fill up on nutrient-rich food 80% of the time—lean protein, healthy fat, high-fiber carbs, dairy, fruit, and vegetables.


Control temptation. Don’t place holiday goodies in well-trafficked spots like the dining room or the kitchen counter. If you bake, give most of it away, keeping just a small amount for your family. And if you get unhealthy food as a gift, donate it to a local shelter.


Focus on veggies and fruit. Eating seven or more fiber-filled fruits and vegetables a day is a wonderful way to keep filling your stomach without overloading calories and carbs. 


Never go to a party hungry. Instead, eat a healthy snack before heading to a gathering. Remember the fruits and veggies mentioned above? You’re less likely to rush to the food table to fill up on unhealthy holiday desserts with food in your stomach. 


Make heart-healthy choices. Consider a healthy appetizer: homemade whole-wheat pita chips with Greek yogurt or hummus dip if you bring food. Corn chips and guacamole or a fruit salad are also excellent options. Use smaller plates to reduce the amount of food you eat. Avoid heavy gravies, high-fat meatballs, sausage, and fried chicken wings). And be sure to drink plenty of water!


Politely say no. You may feel forced to eat food because it’s a party and everyone is binging. Learn to take a small portion.


So, with all the health advice, here’s a delicious and wholesome snack for a little controlled indulging:


Goat Cheese, Lentils, and Brown Rice Rolls



Butter, for greasing the baking dish

Six large Swiss chard leaves (about 1 1/4 pounds)




 2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 packed cup baby arugula leaves, chopped

1 cup goat cheese at room temperature (8 ounces)

1 cup cooked green lentils

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

2 cloves garlic, minced

One 26-ounce jar of marinara or tomato-basil sauce

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)

Two tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter diced into 1/4-inch pieces



Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a nine-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Set aside. 


Remove the thick stem from the center of each chard leaf. Cut each leaf in half lengthwise. Trim the ends from the leaves to make each leaf-half about 7 inches long and 5 inches wide. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the chard leaves and cook for 10 seconds. Remove the leaves and rinse with cold water. Drain on paper towels and set aside. 


For the filling: In a medium bowl, mix the brown rice, arugula, goat cheese, lentils, mint, olive oil, one teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and garlic. Season to your liking with additional salt and pepper. 


Spoon 1/3 cup of the filling onto the end of each chard leaf and roll up like a jelly roll. 


Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange the rolls, seam-side down, in a single layer on top of the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Drizzle with olive oil or dot the top with butter, and bake until the cheese begins to brown and the rolls are heated through about 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve.


If you have a healthcare topic of interest or want to learn more about St. Luke’s Hospital, send me a note at Also, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or visit our website at