6 Fitness Trends Growing in Popularity in 2023

By Shavon LeBlanc, First Mile Care DPP Coach

Ask ten people about their new year’s resolutions, and you’ll hear “exercise more” or “eat healthier” or “get in shape” from nine of them. The new year is an opportunity to evaluate how you can make improvements. Taking care of these interconnected areas of nutrition, exercising, sleeping, mental stimulation, and mood are necessary for holistic wellness.

Our coaches help participants in the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to implement lifestyle change goal-setting and adjust their action plans throughout the year. Your fitness goals don’t need to be epic feats of Olympic caliber. Even a little shift in how you move throughout your day — as little as five minutes every half-hour —  can produce health benefits, according to a recent Columbia University Medical Center study.

Here are six fitness-promoting trends that will continue to grow in popularity in 2023.

1. Wearable technology

Wearable technology will be more affordable, smaller in size, and further linked to more online applications. They’ll include more real-time biometric measurements such as heart rate monitoring, pulse oximetry (blood oxygen reading), stress level monitoring, counting of steps, and monitoring sleep quality

2. Outdoor workouts

As a result of the pandemic, exercising outside has become an even more popular fitness option. More communities will continue investing in the health of their residents by expanding or building parks and outdoor fitness areas to encourage walking, playing, and living.  

Exercising outside is accessible to everyone, improves social interaction, and offers a natural antidepressant as social interactions are built through the camaraderie that occurs in group outdoor activities. Running teams, group walks, fun runs, and obstacle courses are increasing in popularity.

It’s also important to note that the more we encourage outdoor activities and movement, we’ll also reduce a population that sits too much. Sitting is now considered as dangerous to our heart health as smoking! Walking can be a great way to overcome a sedentary lifestyle. 

3. Online virtual workouts

Prior to 2020, home workouts like Peloton and The Mirror were beginning to gain popularity due to their “anytime” accessibility. Since the pandemic, the sales of home workout machines have skyrocketed as well as their online application and programming. Virtual reality workouts take exercise to another level of fun as someone can literally jump into the action, making fitness engaging and reducing boredom. 

Preventing a sedentary lifestyle is one of the major benefits of home/virtual/online workouts. If you work from home, you can always take a break throughout your day to participate in a fitness activity. You can also partner with friends (or soon make new friends) via online communities that promote accountability

4. Functional fitness

Older adults should make movement a priority to improve their mental and physical health as well as promote healthy aging. The effects of many chronic illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease can be reduced with consistent moderate physical activity on most days of the week. First Mile Care coaches follow the CDC’s guidelines for the DPP, and recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

More baby boomers are investing in physical fitness to increase their independence. Functional fitness emphasizes building strength in major muscle groups. It’s about building strength and flexibility so that activities of daily living are completed with ease. The focus is on cardiovascular exercise to lower risk of heart disease and stimulate mental health; strength training to lower risk of arthritis and to build bone strength to reduce hip/knee fractures; and flexibility to stimulate and improve mental health and to improve mobility. 

5. Nutrition

People are spending more time learning how to prepare healthy meals at home and are trying to eat less processed food. They are considering plant-based and alternative meat options and are investing into growing their own foods. 

As we seek to lower the risk of chronic illness and disease, there has been a growing interest in the last few years in integrating nutrition education into fitness facilities. In the past, fitness and nutrition operated independently, but now facilities are partnering with dieticians and nutritionists to share their knowledge with their members. 

In 2023, we’ll also continue to see increased adoption of online applications like MyFitnessPal and Noom, which highlight the connection between eating habits, weight loss, behavioral influences, and health. 

6. Medicine and fitness

Collaborative care of physical fitness, rest, mindfulness, nutrition, and prevention as lifestyle modifications will continue to be  important in improving the health of our society and lowering the risk of diseases . Many chronic conditions, which place an economic burden on our society, can be remedied with lifestyle changes rather than requiring medication. The physicians of the future will better integrate fitness, wellness, and nutrition as a staple in their practices, emphasizing lifestyle modifications before drug therapies.

The best way to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health is to simply start moving, try new things, find what you love, and keep at it. Here’s a list of 15 suggestions that only take a few minutes each. Your First Mile Care coach and classmates are here to help you stay on track, along with your family, friends, and co-workers.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!

First Mile Care Expands Diabetes Prevention Program Footprint to High-Risk Populations in California’s Central Valley

By Karl Ronn, First Mile Care CEO and Founder

I’m pleased to share that First Mile Care is in the process of rolling out our highly successful Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) within California’s Central Valley. In partnership with a national health plan, we’re initially targeting populations showing a high incidence of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes — specifically, Fresno, Sacramento, and surrounding counties

What’s more, the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program is now accessible for the first time to physicians who accept patients covered by a Covered California™ health plan. The California Covered exchange makes private health insurance coverage available to eligible individuals and small businesses at federally subsidized rates. The DPP is also covered nationally by Medicare and under California Medicaid.

The best option for addressing type 2 diabetes is to stop it from developing in the first place. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 38% of the U.S. adult population has prediabetes, putting them on track to develop type 2 diabetes and its associated deadly chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke. 

Local medical experts say the epidemic is even greater in the Central Valley, where nearly half of the adult population of Fresno County, for example, has either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. In Madera County, approximately 14% of residents are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to a 9% state average. Yet eight out of ten people don’t even know they have prediabetes, or how easily they can reverse the condition through small incremental habit changes.

First Mile Care has achieved CDC Full Recognition for our DPP, a designation given only to programs that have successfully delivered a quality, evidence-based program that meets all of the standards of the National Diabetes Prevention Program. The year-long lifestyle change program is clinically proven to reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (and 71% for age 60-plus). 

Our community focus

First Mile Care takes the burden off physicians and health care systems by acting as a complementary extension of a physician’s practice to deliver diabetes prevention classes. In partnership with physicians, we recruit and activate participants based on their ZIP code to develop critical mass for establishing in-person DPP group classes. We secure community-based locations close to participants’ homes to emphasize a shared neighborhood experience which promotes lasting lifestyle changes. 

At First Mile Care, we strive to address social determinants of health and health equity by becoming one with the community. We recruit experienced local coaches, certify them in the DPP, and help them tailor sessions appropriately to reflect local activities, amenities, culture, foods, languages, and weather. Coaches recognize the micro-challenges people face in their daily lives and are in a position to make personalized recommendations on healthy practices to create small, sustainable habit changes.

We are already partnering with health care providers in the greater metropolitan areas of Houston, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Syracuse, and San Francisco. We enrolled more than 600 people in the DPP in 2022, and aim to enroll at least 1,000 participants in 2023. Please read testimonials on our website from a few of our successful graduates. 

Health systems and community-based physician practices interested in offering the DPP to their patients should contact us for more information. 

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!

15 Things You Can Do in Under 15 Minutes to Boost Wellness in the New Year

By La Tonya Allen-Brown, First Mile Care DPP Coach

As the new year begins, you can probably use some suggestions for replacing the bad or lazy behaviors you may have developed over the past three years of pandemic living with some new healthier habits that can lead you to a vigorous and (hopefully) happier and longer life.

“I don’t have time to …”  — exercise, cook, read, meditate, take your pick —  is an easy excuse. The thing is, there are many tiny adjustments you can make to your daily life that require little time or effort but, over time, can have a big positive cumulative impact. 

Here are 15 suggestions for activities that take less than 15 minutes — sometimes much less. You probably won’t do them all, and not every day, but pick and choose what could work for you.

Physical wellness

1. Stand up and stretch at least every half-hour — and remain standing for 5-15 minutes, whether in a meeting, watching TV, or folding laundry.

2. Walk 15 minutes twice a day, hitting at least 150 minutes each week as advised in the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program.

3. Lift weights or use resistance bands to build strength through repetitions.

4. Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 even on overcast days, as per the recommendation of the  American Academy of Dermatology.

Healthy eating

5. Fix a snack like chopped veggies with a healthy dip to keep on hand instead of eating chips.

6. Infuse a pitcher of water with chopped fruit and/or herbs to have in the fridge to drink instead of sugary sodas. (You’ll save money, too!)

7. Keep a food journal to track what and how much you consume to reveal the patterns of eating and drinking and the  link to your moods.

Mental acuity 

8. Do a puzzle (crossword, sudoku, Wordle,  jigsaw, etc. ) to sharpen your analytical skills.

9. Use an app to teach yourself a new skill, like a one-word–a-day new language.

10. Read a book or listen to an audiobook to flex your ability to concentrate.

11. Check your blood pressure regularly with an at-home monitor, as high BP can be linked to various health issues including cognitive decline.

Emotional well-being

12. Take a quick “do not disturb” break for a nap or meditation.

13. Set a time limit on checking social media accounts to limit negative input and doomscrolling.

14. Phone (not text) a loved one as it can relieve stress, reduce loneliness, and accentuate positive thoughts — for both of you.

15. Choose one thing on your to-do list to work on each day; the progress will make you feel better even if the finish line is a long way off.

When you’re trying to swap out habits, qualified guidance and peer support are invaluable to maintaining your motivation to reach your goals and to avoid lapses into old behavioral patterns and practices. Ask your doctor if you qualify for a Diabetes Prevention Program with certified DPP coaches in your neighborhood.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!

28 Meal Preppers and Nutrition Experts Share Their Favorite Healthy Meal Prep Ideas & Tips

First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Coach Jenny Fowler shares healthy meal prep ideas and tips for Edible Arrangements blog. Read full article here.

Getting Support to Keep Lifestyle Change on Track During the Holidays

By Jina Berro, First Mile Care DPP Coach

The holiday season is probably the most challenging time of the year to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle goals. Your usual routines are disrupted. There is so much tempting food and drink at celebrations with friends and family. There’s added stress (and cost!) if you’re hosting get-togethers or out-of-town visitors, or are taking your own getaway.

Moreover, some people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or other types of end-of-year melancholy that can impact their enjoyment of the festivities and trigger old, unhealthy behaviors. Even if you’re in great spirits and looking forward to fun times and a healthy life balance in the new year, you’ll probably eat more and exercise less due to packing in more activities than usual during this period. But that’s OK! Setbacks naturally occur during the process of building long-term lifestyle change. You can get back on track after a lapse.

It can help a LOT if family, friends, and co-workers are on board with your new healthy habits and are cheering you on to make them stick.

However, while they care about you and want you to be well, they may be puzzled at the changes you’re making. For example, you’re spending more time on exercising and less on shopping or playing video games. You want to skip the drive-through lane at the burger joint to eat at home. You’re buying different groceries. You’re bringing your own lunch to the office instead of eating out. You’re holding walking meetings. You’ve changed your work schedule to accommodate gym time. You’ve cut back on happy hours after work. You’ve set up a sleep routine. You’ve even started to meditate

They may not know how to support your efforts. It’s up to you to tell them.

Asking for help

You can start by explaining prediabetes and your participation in the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to stop the development of type 2 diabetes. Ask them nicely to openly encourage your efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle, discuss your triggers for unhealthy behaviors, and give them regular updates on your progress. 

You could also invite them to help you plan, shop for, cook, and eat healthy meals with you. If you have to, establish some family rules — keeping crunchy veggies and low-fat dips as a snack at home, for example, instead of packages of chips. (They can eat chips, just don’t tempt you with them.) You can also ask them to join in the physical fitness activities you participate in, as a way to spend more time together and make the activities more enjoyable. Nevertheless, there may still be some people who just don’t understand the growth mindset you’re cultivating, so you need to find ways to manage temptations when you’re around them.  (Perhaps only spend time with them when another, more supportive person is with you.)

A key component of the First Mile Care DPP is to connect participants in the same ZIP code and help them to learn from each other, as First Mile Care founder Karl Ronn explained in his article in Medical Economics. If you need additional support beyond what you’re already already getting in your First Mile Care DPP group, check with your local library, recreation center, community center, or senior center. There are probably in-person or online neighborhood groups, classes, and clubs that can help your efforts at a healthy lifestyle, whether cooking classes or physical activity such as team sports, martial arts, weight lifting, dancing, and hiking (despite the winter weather). Community service and volunteering, or arts and crafts groups, may also help relieve the stress that can cause you to go off-track with your goals.

People who need people…

If the holiday season or winter doldrums start to get you down, keep reminding yourself that you’re not alone, and most people genuinely want you to succeed. To paraphrase the old Broadway chestnut, people who need other people are the luckiest in the world. 

Be open with family, friends, and co-workers about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the kind of support you would find helpful from them. Your First Mile Care DPP coach and cohorts, as well as your primary care physician — who probably referred you to the First Mile Care program – are here to help.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!

Giving People Access to the Coaching, Tools, and Resources They Need to Live Better, Healthier Lives

“That’s why First Mile Care chose to build out programs in participants’ neighborhoods — the “first mile” where people live is the important mile. Eating better and exercise is theoretical if we don’t embrace the actual constraints to good health that people face. Good or poor grocery stores, hot or cold weather, all the beauty of ethnic diets.”

Read more from Karl Ronn via Valiant CEO >

Making Holiday Meals Healthier, Part 2 — Honoring Mexican Favorites

By  Barbara Martinez-Benavides, First Mile Care DPP Coach

Hosting a holiday meal can be stressful. If you’re following the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program and trying to stay on track with your healthy eating goals, it means you may need to tweak your go-to menu items. On the First Mile Care blog last month, Coach Taylor Winkel published an article about making traditional holiday meals healthier by swapping ingredients, trying new recipes for old favorites, or establishing new favorites.

One of the benefits of hosting is that you know the quality of what you are eating, and the quantity needed. You can also spread healthy practices to your loved ones by talking to them about managing or reversing prediabetes and introducing them to healthy swaps.  Aim for the same type of dish that you know people expect to appear on their holiday tables, but with different, healthier ingredients. Your goal is to involve more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals and serve less fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. It’s possible to reduce calories and add vitamins and minerals without having to sacrifice flavor. 

For example, some folks consider cauliflower to be rather dull on its own, but that makes it a utility player on the holiday table. You can dress it up as an appetizer as well as a side dish, and can offer it as a healthy substitute for pasta and potatoes. Instead of serving macaroni pasta and cheese, a popular holiday dish in the South, try cauliflower mac and cheese. You can also switch in mashed cauliflower for the ubiquitous mashed potatoes.

Eating with a Latin flavor

I grew up in Mexico, where we have our own culinary traditions. After living in the Houston area for several years, I’ve learned to adapt recipes to suit the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas table. Below are a few suggestions for traditional Mexican dishes to incorporate into holiday meal planning without sacrificing your healthy eating goals. I’ve included a few links to recipes, too.

APPETIZER: Who doesn’t love guacamole? I recommend it for a holiday appetizer as it’s easy to prepare in large quantities and provides healthy fats. If you are feeling adventurous, you can add chopped tomatillos for extra flavor and serve with low-salt baked tostada (tortillas) chips. 

MAIN COURSE: Pozole Verde is a typical heavy soup or stew that is a wonderful main dish as it’s very filling. You can make it with pork or chicken combined with a variety of vegetables so it’s high in protein. Most of the flavor derives from the spices which add flavor but not calories. I like this recipe.

SIDE DISH(ES): You can’t beat tamales when it comes to a perfect side dish. I recommend them as there are so many different options in terms of healthy fillings (beans, vegetables, cheese), and with or without meat. Here’s a recipe for an oil-free vegan tamale. 

DESSERT: I love serving this Mexican Apple Salad recipe during the Christmas holidays because although it’s wonderfully sweet, that sweetness comes from its mixture of fruits and nuts. It offers healthy fats and is high in fiber and water. (Please also check out Coach Sandra Huskey’s tips and recipes for healthy holiday baking.)

BEVERAGE: Here’s a recipe for a delicious sugar-free Mexican Punch that has fruit infused with cinnamon and cloves to give it a Christmas-y taste and aroma. (You’ll find some additional ideas for healthy beverages in this First Mile Care webinar on hydration.)

Don’t these all sound delicious? At the table, make smart choices about what to eat and what to skip. A good practice is to serve yourself rather than allow others to serve you, in order to control portion size. Keep your initial portions really small so you can try everything (and avoid any hurt feelings), and then have a second helping once you know what you really, really want to eat. Eat mindfully, relish every bite, and never feel guilty about leaving food on your plate.

It’s important to remember that holidays are not only about food, but are about family time. Find activities to do that are fun together, especially ones that involve physical activity, and savor the time to bond with loved ones and deepen newer relationships. ¡Buen provecho!

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!

Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Coaches Help Reduce Prediabetes Rates

“Type 2 Diabetes is an epidemic that is preventable,” said Shavon LeBlanc, a certified DPP coach with CHPPR partner First Mile Care. “The more people that have access to these programs the more we will improve their quality of life, and free up physician resources to treat other diseases.”

Read more from the UTHealth Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research (CHPPR) >

Reducing the Stress of Holiday Meals

By Taylor Winkel, First Mile Care DPP Coach and Registered Dietitian

Holiday get-togethers are a great bonding experience. You celebrate with family and friends, play games and watch sports, and overall rejoice in being together and making up for lost time after the enforced separations of the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, we all know that the holiday season also presents temptations to forget your healthy lifestyle goals, overeat, skip exercising, and burn the candle at both ends. It’s important to know how to deal with lapses when you go off-track from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and are tempted to fall back into old unhealthy routines that can lead to prediabetes.

If you are hosting a holiday meal or party this year, you’ll experience the added stress of higher food costs while trying to offer the perfect menu that will please everyone and adhere to dietary needs, preferences, and recommendations — your own as well as your guests’. There are also the added chores of cleaning the house, preparing guest accommodation, arranging adequate parking, determining seating arrangements to avoid confrontations, etc. 

Take it easy

Planning can help you deal better with this time in your life. As the host, the best thing to remember is that you don’t have to please everyone! Not everyone will eat every single one of your dishes; you’ll have a range of individuals at your house, and individual preferences will determine who grabs what. 

You can only do so much, so delegate if possible! Ask family and friends who live nearby to bring a dish to share so you don’t end up doing all the leg work. If a guest is requesting a specific dish due to restrictions or diet preferences, accommodate if it is reasonable, but it’s fine to ask them to contribute something as well.

Compromise is key, to avoid feeling that you are taking on too much. For example, if you plan to make a favorite sweet potato casserole that usually includes nuts as a topping but one of your guests is allergic to nuts — go ahead and still make the casserole. Don’t change your menu. However, you could put the nuts in a separate serving dish to avoid contamination, put it next to the casserole, and then people can add it to their serving if desired. And if someone is vegan, don’t be shy about admitting you don’t know what they can and cannot have, and ask them to contribute a dish. As the  host, you might offer up a simple non-meat option like lentils or tofu.  

You can also avoid disappointing guests who expect traditional dishes by offering tweaked versions or reasonable substitutes. (See my article about how to make traditional holiday meals healthier.)

Savoring your favorites

Whatever you decide to eat at a holiday meal — the side dish, the pie, the main course — make sure it’s what you really, really want to eat.  If you’re concerned about looking polite and sampling Aunt Marge’s casserole, let people know that you will dish up your own servings and give yourself small, two-bite samples. In that way, you can taste everything and then decide on your absolute favorites for larger helpings. What you want to avoid is eating a big serving of a high-calorie item that you don’t even particularly want, simply because it’s on your plate and you want to be polite.

When dining, whether as host or guest, eat slowly and truly savor aromas and the flavors of each bite so you get more enjoyment out of what you’re eating. Mindful eating, where you honor all five senses, helps you slow down and give your body time to alert your brain that it’s had enough fuel so you can avoid overeating.  And don’t forget that it’s perfectly OK to decline second helpings and to throw away leftovers if you don’t have anyone to give them to.

The most wonderful, challenging time of the year

The holidays may be full of joy, but the reality is that for most people, this busy period can lead to stressful situations that are challenging for adhering to your healthy lifestyle goals. You will probably eat more and exercise less. Allow yourself a little leeway, forgive your lapses, and emphasize positive thoughts. The important thing is to get back on track if you do veer off, and recalibrate your goals to maintain healthy habits.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!

How To Make Traditional Holiday Meals Healthier

By Taylor Winkel, First Mile Care DPP Coach and Registered Dietitian

For anyone struggling to make lifestyle changes as part of the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), the period between Halloween and New Year’s is a minefield. Those new routines you established involving careful meal planning, mindful eating, daily exercise, and good sleep hygiene will almost certainly be interrupted. No question but that it requires steely determination and focus to stick to your health and fitness goals and survive the holiday season.

When we think about indulging in big holiday meals, our go-to dishes are often traditional recipes handed down through the generations. These may be things you don’t eat at any other time of the year but you eat them now because they evoke memories of people and times gone by.

Every November, newspaper and TV  websites are full of maps of the regional preferences of Americans for their holiday side dishes. An old-fashioned Thanksgiving table might offer cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, corn, biscuits, pumpkin pie, etc. (Change turkey to ham and pumpkin pie to mince, and you have a classic Christmas meal.) These are mainly high-fat, high-starch food items — hardly surprising since Americans famously love their carbs! 

If you are following the CDC meal planning guidelines for the Diabetes Prevention Program, your First Mile Care coaches have explained that the “ideal” balanced plate is 50% non-starchy vegetables (salad greens,  broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, carrots, et.), 25% protein foods (chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu, etc.), and 25% carb foods like starchy vegetables, grains, rice, pasta, fruit, yogurt, etc. (Plus, it’s essential to include some fats in the form of nuts, olives, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil.) So it can be  really challenging to make a balanced plate from the classic holiday menu as mentioned above! And then you must also confront the temptation of large portions and multiple servings …

But why not switch it up? What if holiday meal planning involves preparing some of these dishes in a healthier way, or offering healthier — but equally delicious — substitutes? It may not be the way grandma fixed it, but you could even enjoy it more.

Different, but just as good

The traditional dishes tend to be very high in saturated fats like butter, high in sodium, high in added sugars, and have high-fat creams — oftentimes hidden in foods that are seemingly benign. For example, you might consider Aunt Irma’s’ green bean casserole as healthy because, hey, it has veggies! Unfortunately, she stirs in quantities of butter and cream which make it soooo tasty but also result in a high-calorie, high-fat side dish.

Having dishes with healthier ingredients allows you to avoid overeating high-sodium, high-fat foods with excessive calories. You can also better manage your blood sugar level and keep it from spiking and crashing. With healthier side dishes, you can eat less and still feel satisfied — and it will usually “cost” you fewer calories. This can also stop you from feeling guilty about what or how much you ate (though you should never have to feel guilty to begin with!).

Depending on the dish, you can replace fat with a healthier alternative. Instead of butter, use olive oil, applesauce, avocado, or even pumpkin puree, which focuses on more of the healthy fats we want in our diet and decreases the unsaturated fats. Other healthy swaps include whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, coconut sugar rather than white sugar, and pure maple syrup as a sweetener.

Guilt-free deliciousness

Below is my suggestion for some healthy dishes to consider serving during the upcoming holiday season, or healthier ways to prepare traditional holiday items.  I’ve included a few links to recipes, too.


Finger foods: These are the best appetizers as they are easy and stress-free, leaving you more time to focus on preparing your main meal. Emphasize raw fruit and vegetables with some healthy dips like hummus, or a homemade yogurt ranch or dill dip — e.g., celery and cucumber sticks, baby carrots, bell pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower florets, fennel, baby corn, and asparagus spears. Accompany the crudités with dishes of nuts, whole grain crackers, pickles, olives, and some cheeses. 

Soup: Homemade soup is a good choice as a healthy appetizer, as a vegetable soup can add more nutrients to a meal. Butternut squash soup is packed with fiber, vitamin A, and potassium. My go-to recipe uses wholesome ingredients and also adds in some beans for even more added fiber.


Turkey: Turkey is a lean protein, but how you prepare it can determine how healthy it is. Baked, barbecued, or broiled is fine, but do not deep fry the bird! Using low-sodium broth, fresh oranges and lemons, and fresh herbs can infuse the turkey with a really good flavor. Turkey can be pretty dry without butter, but try to limit butter to two sticks at most. 

Vegan pot pie: Instead of offering a second meat option, think about offering a vegan or vegetarian dish that can appeal to everyone. This recipe for a vegan pot pie  can be made healthier by using a low-sodium broth, and substituting whole wheat flour for added nutrients instead of all-purpose flour. You can also add tofu or tempeh for more protein.


Brown rice stuffing or veggie stuffing: Though stuffing is delicious, it can become very high in calories after adding a lot of meat to it. My suggestion is to do one of two things: Make a brown rice stuffing, or add extra celery and onions to a traditional recipe instead of meat. Brown rice is a healthier ingredient over white rice and white bread because it is less processed, meaning it still has the bran and germ (outer layer) which holds the vitamins and minerals. In highly processed foods like white rice and white bread, those nutrients are stripped away.

Quinoa salad: Quinoa salad is always a good way to go. Your standard salad is sometimes not very filling, so people often add a protein source. Quinoa is considered a superfood — a  complete protein. That means it has all of our essential amino acids, just as a meat source such as chicken does.  

Spinach, kale, and brussel sprout salad: You can never go wrong with more greens. This recipe can replace something such as coleslaw, and instead of having a mayonnaise-based dressing, offers an oil and vinegar dressing which is a healthier alternative. Having a sweeter salad option can also help satisfy your sweet tooth, so perhaps you’ll be less tempted by the desserts on offer.

Honey-glazed carrots and broccoli: You want vegetable options for your healthier holiday meal, and offering something with natural sweetness may, again, lessened sugar cravings for dessert.

Cranberries: Lastly, use a homemade cranberry sauce versus a canned sauce or jelly, as the canned version can be very high in added sugars. When you make cranberry sauce at home like the one in this recipe, you’re in control of the amount of added sugar and can naturally sweeten it. You can even give it your own touch with some lemon or orange zest.


A traditional favorite like pumpkin pie is still on the table if you make it a tad healthier. You can naturally sweeten it with maple syrup and coconut sugar. When making the crust, think about healthier ingredients like almond flour or whole wheat flour. Even better, the recipe here can be made without crust or as pumpkin pie bars, which will have the added benefit of making the dessert lower in calories. This recipe is even dairy-free for those who are lactose-intolerant. 


Avoid alcohol, syrupy coffee, and sugary beverages like lemonade, soda pop, and sweet tea. Instead, focus on hydrating, especially when you still feel hungry after already eating. It can be easy to mistake thirst for hunger, so grab your one plate of food, hydrate yourself with plain water or an herbal infusion, and then digest your meal for 20 minutes. If after that 20 minutes you still feel hungry, then grab another serving, but chances are you will find you feel full. 

Are you salivating yet? Good, I’ve accomplished my goal! Your key takeaway from reading this article is that healthy does not have to mean boring. Healthy eating can be just as enticing to your taste buds as your traditional high-fat, high-calorie holiday dishes. Go ahead, create some new traditions! Your body will thank you.


To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!