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Celebrate the New Year Without Packing on Pounds

By Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN

It’s hard to believe 2018 is right around the corner. The new year often means different things to many people. It’s a time to reflect on where they’ve been, where they are, and perhaps where they hope to be this time next year. Whether you or your clients shun the idea of making resolutions or enter the new year with a laundry list of goals, we all have some areas of our lives we’d like to improve. Not surprisingly, most resolutions focus on diet and exercise.

The anticipation of gluttony over the holidays can strike fear in all of us, as though we’re doomed to gain those dreaded holiday pounds. As nutrition professionals, we know gaining unwanted weight isn’t inevitable, and it will be important to regularly remind clients of this throughout this festive season.

In the spirit of celebrating this upcoming new year, I’m sharing some of my tried and true tips to stay healthy during the holiday plus my favorite (and simple) appetizer recipes that are sure to shine at any New Year’s Eve gathering.

10 Tips to Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season

  1. Drink water.
  2. Plan menus and shop for the week.
  3. Buy pantry staples in bulk.
  4. Cook ahead—make a large pot of brown rice or another whole grain once per week and cut up a bunch of vegetables to add to dishes or snack on.
  5. Premake lunches and snacks for the week and bring them with you to work and school.
  6. Never go more than four hours without eating a meal or snack.
  7. Keep fresh fruit on hand.
  8. Have breakfast and include plenty of fiber and protein.
  9. Try a simple new healthful recipe each week.
  10. Find a friend who wants to stay healthy and motivated over the holidays, too.

— Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN, is a New York-based chef, culinary nutrition expert, and recipe/product developer. You can find her recipes, videos, and articles at CulinaryNutritionCuisine.com.

Bite-Sized Grape Cheese Balls

Serves 15 (yields 30 balls)

5 oz goat cheese
4 oz cream cheese
1 T minced chives plus 3 T chopped chives, divided
1 tsp honey
1/8 tsp black pepper
30 red seedless grapes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Mix goat cheese, cream cheese, 1 T minced chives, honey, and pepper thoroughly in a bowl. Set aside remaining chives.
  2. Using about 1 T of cheese mix, place one grape in the middle, forming cheese mixture around grape into a ball shape. Place each grape cheese ball on a plate lined with wax paper.
  3. Place all cheese-grape balls in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Before serving, place remaining chives in one bowl and walnuts in another bowl. Roll one-half of the cheese balls in remaining chives and the other half in walnuts until evenly coated. Serve.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (two balls)
Calories: 100; Total fat: 8 g; Sat fat: 4 g; Sodium: 60 mg; Total carbohydrate: 4 g; Dietary fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 3 g

Figs With Ricotta

Serves 4

1/3 cup walnuts
8 figs
1/3 cup ricotta
1 T honey
Pinch of salt


  1. Toast walnuts in a skillet on the stove, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Chop when cool.
  2. Slice each fig in half and place cut side up. Use your finger to make a small depression in the cut side of each fig and fill with ricotta. Sprinkle with walnuts, a small drizzle of honey, and salt.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 200; Total fat: 8 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Sodium: 60 mg; Total carbohydrate: 30 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 20 g; Protein: 6 g

Green Goddess Crab Salad
With Endive

Serves 6 to 8

8 oz lump crab meat
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 T mayonnaise
2 T chives, chopped
2 T parsley, chopped
2 T basil, chopped or chiffonade
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 endives (can use radicchio, if preferred)


  1. Combine crab meat, yogurt, mayonnaise, herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix until well combined.
  2. Cut off end of endive. Take individual leaves from endive and place on a board. Fill each leaf with 1 T of crab mixture. Garnish with additional herbs if desired. Place on a platter and serve.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 100; Total fat: 4 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Sodium: 260 mg; Total carbohydrate: 7 g; Dietary fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 1 g; Protein: 11 g

Prosciutto Cups
With Honeydew Melon

Serves 6 (yields 24 cups)

6 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 honeydew melon, diced small
1/2 bunch of mint, minced


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Cut prosciutto in half so each piece is ~3 inches long. Place a 3-inch piece of prosciutto in each cup of a mini muffin tin. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to cool.
  3. Place 1 tsp of melon into each prosciutto cup. Garnish with mint.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (~4 cups)
Calories: 65; Total fat: 3 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Sodium: 770 mg; Total carbohydrate: 1 g; Dietary fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 8 g

— All recipes and photos courtesy of Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN