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Imagine you are a child. You’re happily sitting at the table enjoying your holiday meal with family and friends, eating your favorite holiday foods, engaging in conversation with others, wondering when in the world they’ll finally bring out the pumpkin pie.

Then you hear it.

It’s subtle, but it’s there. Aunt Kathy is talking about cutting carbs again when the holidays are over. Uncle Ned mentions his doctor recently told him he needs to go on a diet and lose weight. Cousin Linda laments that she’ll go over her calorie limit for the day if she eats the pumpkin pie, and Mom tells her, “Just make sure you work it off at the gym later,” with a laugh and a wave of her hand. The diet talk.

You stop chewing for a second and wonder why your family members are so concerned with diets, losing weight and changing their bodies. You look down at your plate. What is it about this food that everyone is so afraid of? Isn’t food wonderful? Shouldn’t everyone enjoy it and want to eat it?

The meal continues and you ask for a second slice of pie. Mom hesitates, mentions something about pumpkin pie being fattening while Dad scoffs at her, saying you’re young and have a fast metabolism, so why not? You start to wonder whether you should have that second slice, whether you should trust your body and eat when you’re hungry, eat a variety of foods and eat until full and satisfied.

You excuse yourself to use the restroom and happen to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. You start to examine your face, hair and body, wondering if it’s okay to just be you or if you should be trying to change certain things about your appearance. Your grandma says you are perfect just the way you are, but you start to wonder if all those adults are so unhappy with how they look, maybe just being you isn’t good enough.

The scenario depicted above is all too common, one that children of all ages from toddler to teenager experience every day. Maybe you remember going through the phases of self-love to self-loathing during your own childhood, influenced by the people in your life.

It’s not your fault. Let me repeat that: it’s not your fault. Our society has raised generations of people who are taught to distrust their bodies and attempt to change their bodies over and over again through dieting. Diet talk feels like the norm. Shame and embarrassment of our bodies feels like the norm. And it spares no one; from teenagers to truck drivers, from moms to medical doctors, the ongoing journey toward the thin ideal has been ingrained in our heads.

Diet talk is exhausting. Consider the amount of energy it takes to go about your day: energy for thinking, energy for processing, energy for movement. A typical person has diet thoughts, engages in diet talk and shames their body multiple times each day. For many, an ongoing life goal is to lose weight and keep it off. Losing weight is not your purpose on this planet. Energy and time put toward overanalyzing food choices, emphasizing our weight and criticizing others’ bodies is energy and time wasted that could be put toward much more meaningful acts. Judging others’ body shapes and lifestyle choices is not bringing us together and is certainly not teaching the next generation to love themselves.

So let’s try something a little different this holiday season as we’re gathered together: Let’s “table” the diet talk for the day.

Challenge the family to talk positively about the food they’re eating, about each other and most importantly, about themselves. No talk of needing exercise to work off what you ate. No talk of goals to change your weight or your body shape.

Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, resolve to lose the diet talk. Resolve to respect your body, respect food as nourishment and fuel for your body, and respect everyone around you. Resolve to model healthy lifestyle habits to your children or grandchildren, and to raise the next generation as intuitive eaters instead of chronic dieters.

If you would like more information on improving your eating habits, Gundersen registered dietitians can help. For an appointment, call (608) 775-3447.

Green bean casserole

Makes: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2.8 ounce container of prepared crispy fried onions

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Bring one inch of water to a boil in a large pot, add beans, cover and steam until tender-crisp, about three to four minutes. Remove beans and drain water. Wipe pot clean.

Add oil to the pot and heat over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until softened, about four minutes. Stir in mushrooms, garlic, salt, thyme and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender and liquid is almost evaporated, three to five minutes.

Pour in milk and bring to a simmer. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl. When milk is simmering, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about one to two minutes. Stir in green beans.

Transfer the entire mixture to the 9x13 inch baking dish. Top with the crispy fried onions. Bake the casserole until bubbling, 20-30 minutes.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 105 calories, 5 g fat, 4 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 260 mg sodium

Roasted veggie quinoa bowl

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ small head red cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • ¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger root, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange carrots, broccoli, red pepper and cabbage on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder and toss a little to combine. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked to desired tenderness.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger and garlic.

Divide quinoa into four bowls. Divide vegetables evenly among the four bowls. Drizzle the soy sauce dressing on top of each bowl. Serve immediately.

Recipe note: To make this into a main dish, add some shelled edamame or diced cooked chicken to the bowls.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 270 calories, 9 g fat, 7 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 630 mg sodium

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Rebecca Stetzer is a Gundersen Health System registered dietitian.

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