Holiday Food: A Lil’ More Nice Than Naughty

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Editor’s Note: Jesse Brune is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, certified personal trainer, and founder of the non-profit spiritual community Project: Service L.A. First seen on the Bravo reality series Workout, Brune currently appears on Food Network’s Private Chefs of Beverly Hills. Jesse is publicly “out”in his personal life and on television.

Ah, the holiday season is here again! This time of year we get to practice “feasting” along with our loved ones. We laugh, we cry, we eat, we play board games, we watch parades, we eat, we shop, we reconnect, and most importantly…we eat.

This time of year, there are so many amazing food articles circulating the web, each one packed with ridiculous recipes and tips on “how to perfect the Thanksgiving turkey” or “how to recreate mom’s pumpkin pie.” There are also just as many articles on how to burn off the calories from that very same pie. It’s the Thanksgiving tango–we eat, we feel guilty, we hit the gym. Perhaps I’m just speaking for myself, but I have a feeling that a few of you can relate!

I would never tell anyone to refrain from indulging during this time of year. That doesn’t seem fair. I love to partake in all the holiday madness: the desserts, the stuffing, the rolls, and the gravy. I show no favoritism and practice complete equality when it comes to naughty food selection. This year, however, is going to be a little different for me. I was recently diagnosed as gluten-intolerant and also advised to stay away from lactose. This means, to use fancy words, my food allergies are similar to those of someone who has celiac disease. My body doesn’t process certain foods well, and the results are not awesome.

As a chef, this news was a bit of a blow to the gut. As a frozen-yogurt enthusiast, this news was devastating. As a gay man living in Los Angeles, this news presented me with a sure-fire way to drop a few pounds, so it wasn’t all that bad. Still, what about the holidays? What about all the fixins, drippins and good ol’ fashion face-stuffing? What was I going to do?

I was going to get creative is what I was going to do.

Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to eat like they have food allergies, but it just so happens that my dietary restrictions make for an interesting way to avoid some calories while still enjoying the bulk of the traditional foods found around the table. Here are three simple tips that I’m currently following that may be useful to those who are looking to celebrate consciously this year:

1. I need to avoid dairy, so instead of mixing my yams with heavy cream, I will substitute soy milk. This will add a subtle sweet edge and cut back on a few of the calories. (A little tip with yams: try adding some curry powder to the mix to give it a unique kick that everyone will love!)

2. I mix my mashed potatoes with chicken stock instead of milk and use a vegan butter substitute to add that creamy flavor. I know it sounds kinda “hippie-dippy” but it actually tastes great, and you can enjoy it with less guilt!

3. Pie crust is out of the question for me, so I take toasted almonds and pecans, throw them in the blender with raw honey and the vegan butter substitute I mentioned before, and blend them together for about 30 seconds. Then, magically, I have a base for my mom’s famous apple pie!

Listen, I work with what I got. What I know is that if I can avoid having to fight someone over a treadmill on the day after Thanksgiving, I will call my new way of eating a blessing in disguise.

Happy Holidays. I’m sending love to you all!

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