Constance Marie Serves A Healthier Thanksgiving
By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
has more energy than ever after going meatless.
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Actress Constance Marie has a lot for which to be thankful. But while she's
starring on both The George Lopez Show on ABC and American Family on PBS, she
won't be giving thanks for her success with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
That's because Marie doesn't eat meat.
"I'm a fish-atarian - no red meat, chicken, or pork," says Marie. "I haven't
had red meat or pork in probably 20 years because when I was younger I was very
active but when I ate red meat I felt heavy and weighed down and lethargic.
About seven years ago I just decided to cut out the poultry completely. I felt
so much better, leaner and had even more energy."
But just eating fish - called a pescatarian - makes Thanksgiving a culinary
"Thanksgiving is my favorite eating day," states Marie, who plays Lopez's wife
Angie. "I love it but I don't eat turkey. I serve tofurkey. It comes with tempeh
drumsticks that get nice and crispy and this amazing tofu gravy."
Tofurkey does not contain animal fats and therefore is extremely heart-healthy.
And before true Thanksgiving gourmands scoff at the thought of a turkey-less
holiday table, Marie says tofurkey even won over her mother.
"My mom loves the tofurkey actually," Marie says. "And my step-father who loves
to cook really likes the tofu gravy. So I'm slowly wearing them down."
Meanwhile, health professionals are hoping Americans will be slowing down -
on the over-eating. More than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese according
to recent data.
"If Thanksgiving was the only day of dietary indulgence the entire year, Americans
would not be suffering under the plague of obesity," says Michael Hirt, a Harvard-trained
internist and board certified clinical nutrition specialist. "One day won't
ruin your diet, but the problem is people tend to eat trigger foods which set
off an eating binge that lasts through the winter."
Most studies report that Americans pack on the pounds during the holidays and
over-eating is often a major contributor. So is eating the wrong foods. These
can include sodium and fat-rich dressings, gravy and stuffing which are ill-advised
for guests with histories of high blood pressure,
heart disease/failure, diabetes or edema.
"I make veggie stuffing," says Marie, who also starred in Tortilla Soup. "It's
much healthier than regular gravy. I also serve a lot of the traditional dishes
like potatoes and fresh vegetables."
And Marie even has a solution for those hard-to-resist, calorie super-charged
"When I make pumpkin pie I eliminate about half the sugar and it still tastes
great," Marie reports. "I also have eliminated a lot of the sugar in my diet.
I read that we consume three times the amount of sugar that our grandparents
did. That's insane. It's not healthy."
Marie tends to eat more of a Zone Diet - consisting of 40% protein, 30% fats
and 30% carbohydrates. She also eats five or six small meals throughout the
day "to keep my blood sugar from spiking so I crave food less."
But being a strict vegetarian or vegan also comes with a nutritional caution.
"It is hard to be a pure vegetarian without running
into vitamin deficiencies such as B-12," states Hirt, who is also an
assistant clinical professor at UCLA and founder of the Center for Integrative
Medicine on Wilbur Avenue in Tarzana, California. "Supplements can help as can good meal planning, but you have
to educate yourself and your family to do vegetarianism correctly. Adding
fish to the diet can bring balance and B-12 to your diet. There
is good scientific data that shows that people who regularly consume fish live longer than
those who do not."
If you do over-indulge, Hirt has some effective remedies.
"If you find that you are more stuffed than the bird on the table," Hirt advises.
"Try sipping some hot ginger tea and chewing fennel seeds pan fried in
a little sesame oil. These remedies have been used for centuries by those
whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. Taking a walk also helps to
stimulate the bowels and get that giant bolus of holiday food moving through
your digestive tract."
But before you go for that walk, Hirt reminds people to refrigerate any leftovers.
"Put any leftovers you want to keep into the fridge while still warm,"
Hirt cautions. "If food has been sitting out while Aunt Sally regales the table
with stories from her last bake sale, consider giving it to the dog but not
keeping it for tomorrow's dinner. Food can go bad
quickly and the cold temperatures in the fridge and freezer will not kill the
bacterial overgrowth that may have already contaminated your food."
Marie healthy lifestyle is something she practices rather than preaches. But
her health, energy and looks haven't gone unnoticed.
"People see that I have tons of energy and I stay slim and I get to eat what
I want," Marie says. "That's the best way to advertise healthy eating. That's
how George got interested in my diet and now he has lost 43 pounds -- because
he gave up meat."
Marie is grateful for her health and her sky-rocketing career this Thanksgiving
and reports that even Lopez appreciates his new-found health and diet.
"George said the other day, 'Who would have ever thought I'd be a vegetarian?'"
Marie says. "There's nothing wrong with being as healthy as you can be. It doesn't
take that big a sacrifice. You don't just have to eat salads."
• Vegetarian Resource Group
• My Best
Health Diet Center
• Vegetarian Times
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Created: 11/22/2003  - John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.