[gtranslate] Healthy Holiday Feasting - Eglise Catholique Saint James (Saint Jacques)

Healthy Holiday Feasting

Healthy Holiday Feasting

‘Tis the season to be jolly and to celebrate Christmas and New Years by feasting around the family table. Besides celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25, many people find that food is one of the best parts of the holiday season. So many people enjoy splurging—and overeating—during the holidays that weight gain must inspire many New Year’s resolutions—go on a strict diet. But one Catholic priest, noted for his excellent cooking, offers some advice about eating sensibly at the holiday table.

Father Bill John Melançon, pastor of two parishes in Louisiana, has been a devout cook all his life, even being known for baking chocolate cookies the size of pizzas and making outstanding gumbo and jambalaya. He also has often cooked for his parishioners, so has come to understand how tempting it is for people to overeat at the dining table. As he said, “It is essential for people to cut back on their foods at a holiday meal, because so many dishes are nonhealthy such as gravies.” But, he added, you can enjoy good flavors without splurging. People should limit their intake of turkey or chicken stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and all the sweets and breads, especially the hot dinner rolls just out of the oven covered with butter.

Fr. Melançon said that turkey may be delicious, but chicken is lower in fat, noting that people really need only several ounces of protein a day. And he added, he loves the sweets. “And I love desserts and don’t want to cut them out,” he said. “But eat a smaller portion or a dessert with less sugar added like ice cream.”

He suggested that an approachable holiday meal should include a green salad, Brussel Sprouts, cabbage, cole slaw, and a German potato salad that has oil as its dressing. For dessert, a slice of pie or angel food cake topped with low-calorie Cool Whip and fresh berries. “My favorite,” he said, “is strawberries.”

Of course, several websites feature tips for feasting during the holidays and how to dine well without overeating. Registered dietician, Julia Zumpano at the Cleveland Clinic, notes several steps people can take to control weight gain and politely just eat minimal portions. Her first advice, of course, is to exercise regularly….all the time and especially during the holidays. She also noted that people should never go to a party hungry but should eat some fruits beforehand. And then at the table or buffet, assess what is offered and make careful food choices—avoid rich sauces, gravies, sausages, and high-sugar holiday drinks. For people eating at a dinner table, politely decline servings of fattening foods, but if that is not viable just take a small portion home and give it to family or friends.

As Fr. Melancon concludes, “I don’t see a problem with celebrating, we just eat too much and eat the leftovers the next day….Moderation, moderation,” he stressed.


“Most of the recipes I learned from my mother and they are memorized. Writing them down is not an exact science,” said Fr. Melançon.

Festive Menu

Holidays and joyful gatherings call for special menus and particular foods. If someone is trying to eat healthier, then there are a couple of simple rules to follow. Portion control is the key. We splurge and that is how we celebrate! Just curbing the quantity, a bit will go a long way to reducing the regret from eating too much. Also, what foods we choose can affect our moods and waistline! Here is a menu that helps a little in keeping these rules. All can be made from scratch or from cans and from frozen.

Baked Chicken Breasts (one per person. Here you can splurge by wrapping each portion with one slice of bacon. Turn up the festive look by sprinkling yellow, red and green bell peppers on top about five minutes before the baking ends)

Green Salad (cherry tomatoes add a festive flair)

(with a vinaigrette made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper)

French-Style Green Beans (a 14.5 ounce can will serve 4 to 6 adults. Slivered almonds can be added for a little crunch)

Glazed Carrots (these do come in cans. Freshly sliced carrots can be sauteed in a combination of orange juice and brown sugar. Keep heat on medium)

Rice Dressing (a favorite in south Louisiana. Rice and sauteed ground meat combine to make a satisfying side dish. Cook the rice first and sauté the ground meat separately. Combine when both are fully cooked. Do not forget to season to taste.)

Dinner Roll (bought fresh and warmed in the oven, or baked from frozen, or even from scratch)

Assorted Pies and Tarts (there are many “no-sugar added” items. Keep slices thin or be bold and slice in one-inch squares)

Pretend Wine Coolers (different fruit flavors infuse grape juice and lemon-lime soda. Be creative!)

Baked Chicken

This is a recipe that is simple and quick. You will need one chicken breast for each person attending the meal. (Adjust for the number you will bake). Always be cautious when working around hot ovens and stoves. Use oven mitts and towels.

4 boneless chicken breasts

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon each salt, black pepper, garlic salt, and onion salt (Alternative seasoning can include ready prepared seasoning mix, the addition of herbs (a sprig of rosemary or thyme), or saltless dried herbal blends.

.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl place chicken breasts and lightly pour olive oil over them. Add salt, pepper, garlic salt and onion salt. Rub each piece to assure coating of oil and spices. Set it aside for a few minutes.

Spread 1 T olive oil on the inside of the baking pan. Place chicken breasts on baking pan and lightly cover with aluminum foil.

Place in oven. After 20 minutes remove aluminum foil. Continue baking until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees F. This should take about 5 minutes. These last 5 minutes will brown the chicken. Remove chicken and place on serving platter or directly serve your guests.

Rice Dressing

This is a quick side dish and is used as stuffing inside baked birds. In this application it will be served alongside the baked chicken. After making rice, set aside, but keep warm. In a saucepan, place ½ cup vegetable oil, ground meat, salt and the black and red ground peppers. Sauté in pan until meat is thoroughly cooked (at least 160 degrees F). In bowl, thoroughly combine rice and sautéed ground meat. Serve alongside meat on each plate.

Favorite Dessert

One pound angel food cake–cubed

Container of fresh strawberries ( or blueberries, or raspberries, or pineapple chunks) 

One tub of refrigerated whipped topping

For adults–1/4 cup flavored rum (rum flavor should be the same as the berry used) (if you use coconut rum with the pineapple, then you will have a pina colada flavored dessert)

For children–1/4 cup juice (should be similar to berry used)

This is a layered dessert and makes a grand statement. In a decorative bowl or trifle bowl, first is a layer of whipped topping. Then a layer of cake. A small amount of rum, or juice, is drizzled on the cake. A layer of fresh berries. Continue to alternate layers until the top of the decorative bowl or trifle bowl is reached. This simple dessert is light and refreshing. It should be served in small bowls. As a real treat, layers can be stacked and served in individual wine glasses.

Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash