Friday, December 24, 2010

We, The Pieple: Sam Kass Gives White House Holiday Cooking And Eating Advice

The Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives affirms the centrality of pie in First Family holiday celebrations, talks portion control and merry indulgence...
"Don't worry about how much you eat. Just enjoy it," First Lady Michelle Obama told Barbara Walters during a Thanksgiving interview. "This is the time. Have pie. Eat dressing."

Mrs. Obama's Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives, Sam Kass, is now weighing in on the White House policy for Christmas pie. (Kass, above)

"Coming together and enjoying ourselves is what is most important during the holiday season," Kass said. "It's not time to worry too much about enjoying those mashed potatoes with gravy or an extra piece of pie."

"There is no holiday dinner that does not end with pie, be it sweet potato, apple, pumpkin or banana cream," Kass added about First Family holiday habits, during an e-mail interview with Politico.

All of those pies were served at the First Family's White House Thanksgiving both this year and for Thanksgiving 2009. Kass also gave Politico tips on how to enjoy yourself during the holidays and not become the Mayor of Fatville by New Year's, as he described his own family's holiday traditions, as well as what goes on with the First Family.

The full Eat, Drink & Be Let's Movey Q & A:

Q: Should we be cooking smaller portions of holiday meals and trying to avoid having leftovers?

Sam Kass: Leftovers? There is nothing better than leftovers! This year, my family cooked an extra Thanksgiving turkey just so we could have leftovers. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about leftovers. If someone is concerned about enjoying a healthier holiday, the No. 1 thing you can do is watch your portion size. You can enjoy all of the great dishes of the holiday season and just not have two or three giant servings. Cut down on the amount, and you will be fine.

Q: What holiday foods have hidden fat and calories? Eggnog, perhaps? (And is there such thing as healthy eggnog?) Which ones should we be making, and which should we be avoiding?

Kass: Eggnog is not the lowest-calorie option, but it sure is good. Go for a glass, but if you’re counting calories, I would stop after one glass. I would say, go big on all vegetable dishes, greens, spinach, green beans, squash etc. … All of those make great holiday vegetable dishes.

Q: When attending holiday parties and bringing a dish, what are some festive things we can contribute that won’t make the guests gain five pounds? And what are the easiest and healthiest party finger foods to prepare? (Besides veggies, of course.)

Kass: A great dish to bring is mashed sweet potatoes. They have many vitamins and minerals and are easy to prepare. Try mashing them with some cinnamon, a little orange juice, a touch of butter and some sage, and you will be thrilled at the taste. Hummus is a great alternative for vegetable dips or spreads on crackers.

Q: Do you have any tips for preparing a holiday turkey or ham?

Kass: As cooks like to say, slow and low. Cook your turkey on low heat and a little longer so it cooks slowly; it will not dry out as fast. As for your ham, try basting it two or three times in the final 30 minutes of cooking with a mixture of pineapple juice, mustard and a touch of maple syrup. It adds a great sweetness.

Q: What are some of the Obama family's favorite holiday treats?

Kass: The Obamas love the traditions of the holidays. We serve turkey with all the fixings, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy, ham and greens. There is no holiday dinner that does not end with pie, be it sweet potato, apple, pumpkin or banana cream. And of course, holiday cookies are often enjoyed.


The First Lady's Thanksgiving pie comment gained plenty of traction in the media, because many people believe that her Let's Move! childhood obesity campaign includes a ban on desserts (cue Sarah Palin and her recent S'Mores comment). Mrs. Obama's Thanksgiving pie advice garnered headlines like the one, above.

*Photo by EGK/Obama Foodorama; screenshot from Fox News