A combination of lean beef and ground turkey make Christmas cranberry meatballs a surprisingly healthful hot appetizer or festive entree. (Photo by Rose McAvoy)

A combination of lean beef and ground turkey make Christmas cranberry meatballs a surprisingly healthful hot appetizer or festive entree. (Photo by Rose McAvoy)

Defeating deprivation: Weight loss can be fun and sustainable

Earlier this year I conducted a survey to learn more about the challenges women experience while eating for weight loss. I asked participants a few open-ended questions about past weight loss attempts. When I read the responses, my heart leapt to my throat.

I expected frustration in the areas of time constraints and calorie counting. What I did not expect was the raw emotion related to feelings of deprivation. Again, and again I read words of fear that a commitment to eating for weight loss would feel like a lifetime of painful punishment. Ultimately, fear of deprivation was referenced twice as many times as any other challenge.

In my own weight loss journey, it didn’t take long to realize, healthy eating had to consist of more than nibbling celery sticks. I didn’t want to merely survive until I had a skinny body, I wanted full and abundant life. Following that mental shift my real journey began — my new lifestyle had to be attainable, sustainable, and fun!

One of the next thoughts I turned on its head was how to eat for weight loss at a party. Initially, I thought I would have to avoid all food at parties. I tried this approach a few times. The result was the same each time, I left every party grumpy, hungry and with no idea who I saw or what we talked about. I decided it was time to take a different approach. To attend parties and feel like a full participant, not just a nervous spectator, I needed to bring my own bit of delicious to the table — literally.

I started to bring substantial side dishes or appetizers to parties and pot-lucks. Every dish had some form of protein and flavors that made my mouth water. Because I made the dish, I knew how to portion each serving to fit into my eating plan. I also had the flexibility to alter my portion and accommodate any changes I made to my eating plan at the party. Best of all, I knew when it came time to eat, I would be able to dig into something delicious along with everyone else.

Before this shift, I would spend an entire party playing a mental tug of war between my brain and belly over the relentless question, do I eat more or deny myself? Empowered by my new approach I was freed to be more present with my family and friends. In a very real sense I reclaimed the power I had long ago handed over to food. Over time the practice became a habit that sustained me through the entire process of my weight loss.

Today, I have all the power in my relationship with food. A buffet table is no longer a threat to my willpower. I continue to bring my own bit of delicious to parties. I enjoy sharing food with people, as I say to my kids, it fills my love bucket. It is all worth it to see a spark of hope in the eyes of other busy women who dream of losing weight but feel like they would have to take extreme action to make their dream a reality.

Yes, I want you to fill your plate with vegetables, get some exercise, and drink more water — you don’t need to wait for the new year. I hope now you understand, healthy choices are not restrictions but keys to unlocking the doors of improved health and a life without limits. When you decide to take responsibility for what you eat no matter what, you will become the creator of your own healthy ever after. You can live the life you desire. Get started right now and don’t forget to pack something delicious for the journey.

Cranberry Christmas meatballs

Tender meatballs dotted with festive cranberries and fresh parsley simmered in a sweet-tart sauce. Made with a combination of lean beef and ground turkey to make a (you won’t believe this is) healthy appetizer for your holiday menu. Serve cranberry meatballs as a hot appetizer or a festive entrée.

Prep: 20 mins, Cook: 45 mins, Yield: 50 meatballs

Meatballs:

½ cup low-fat milk

½ cup plain bread crumbs

1 pound lean beef

1 pound lean turkey

2 large eggs

½ cup grated yellow onion (approximately 1 small onion)

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

¼ cup finely chopped dried cranberries

2 cloves garlic finely minced

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Cooking oil, such as grapeseed

Sauce:

1 14-oz can whole cranberry sauce

1 cup beef broth

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Combine the bread crumbs with the milk in a small bowl. Set aside to let them soften.

In a large bowl, combine meat, eggs, onion, parsley, cranberries, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the softened bread crumbs. Mix gently using your hands to evenly combine the ingredients without overworking the meat.

Scoop the meatball mixture by a slightly rounded tablespoon and form into a ball. Arrange the balls side-by-side on a rimmed baking pan. Continue forming balls until all the mixture has been used. Keep the meatballs cold until ready to cook.

In a heavy bottomed pan, such as a 4-6 quart dutch oven, combine the ingredients for the sauce and warm over medium-low heat.

To cook the meatballs: Cover the bottom of a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil then heat over medium heat.

Working in batches of 10 meatballs at a time, cook the meatballs for 3 minutes until the bottom is browned. Flip and brown for another 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to the warm sauce and cover. Continue browning the meatballs and transferring to the pot of sauce until all the meatballs have been browned. Stir gently as needed to cover all the meatballs with sauce. Simmer the browned meatballs for 20-30 minutes until they are cooked through and the center temperature reaches 165F.

Serve immediately. Store leftover meatballs in the sauce, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat over low heat in a sauce pan or microwave.

For a thicker sauce: combine 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Stir the mixture into the meatballs after they are fully cooked. The sauce should thicken within a minute or two.

Approximate nutrition information per meatball: 52 calories, 2g fat, 83mg, 4g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 3g sugar, 4g protein

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