Many people will break their diets during the holiday season, indulging in all the holiday foods and drinks that seem irresistible but leave us feeling heavy and sick. Then, making guilt-fueled resolutions come New Year, we promise ourselves to go into food rehab. Let us explore ways to enjoy the holidays without over indulging and under nourishing our body and soul. Let us aim to STAY healthy while experiencing the celebration of abundance the holiday represents!
Processed, junk and fast foods are one of the primary factors driving our skyrocketing obesity and chronic disease rates. Most of us know that they are not good for our health, but we have trouble keeping our hands off these foods especially during the holidays. Endless parties, dinners, mounds of butter, sweets, rich and heavy foods, alcohol and sugary drinks form the centerpieces of the season. Can we break the annual chain wreaking havoc on our health?
For an office potluck or holiday get-together, offer to bring a salad, vegetable dish, or healthy breads and muffins. The Internet is full of every delicious and healthy recipe imaginable! For salad, add lots of colors and textures: cashew/pili nuts, pomelo, oranges, peppers, sun dried tomatoes, kale, arugula, etc. For a vegetable side dish, use healthy preparation methods, such as steaming or baking vegetables, and toss with flavorful herbs and spices instead of butter or cream sauces. Use virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil instead of bad fats. Create vibrant dishes with a variety of color, such as peapods, mushrooms, and red peppers, or green zucchini and diced tomatoes. Try seasoning your favorite dishes with black pepper, parsley, garlic, or sautéed onions. Prepare healthy banana or sweet potato muffins with whole ingredients instead of white wheat and sugar.
Healthy Holiday Tips
- Eat before you go. Load up on real, whole foods like whole fruits, vegetables, non-gluten whole grains, healthy fats and wild-caught fish or organic turkey and chicken. These foods signal your brain to stop eating and you are less likely to gorge on junk food at the party and reach for sugary desserts. If you only have a little time before the event, grab your favorite fruits, vegetable or nuts to go.
- Make family and friends, not food, your focus. The holidays are about giving and celebrating with those we love most, but food can become the center of attention during these social situations. Remember to shift your focus to what really matters rather than making a beeline for the buffet. Keep moving around the party room and try not to stand or sit right next to the dessert table.
- Watch your alcohol. If you plan on drinking wine, beer, or other alcohol, allow yourself one or two drinks and stick to the plan by drinking water or fresh juices if available. Alcohol depletes mood-boosting B vitamins, is a brain toxin and slows down brain metabolism. Water also helps you feel fuller.
- Bring healthy snacks and drinks to the event. Healthy sweets must be made with natural oils and full-spectrum sweeteners such as honey, molasses or coco sugar. The best tasting and most healthful treats are made from nuts (cashew or pili) and date paste. You can make delicious cookies, cakes and other treats with date paste as the base, adding in other ingredients like coconut flour to give it more bulk.
- Remember moderation and plan your indulgence in advance. If you absolutely know that you will eat sweets or junk foods because of the holiday, enjoy and taste your favorites, but have only one piece or serving.
- Eat Slowly and Use a Smaller Plate. It usually takes about 20 minutes for our brain to get the message from our stomach that we are full. Take small bites, chew slowly, savor your meal, and use one small plate to limit your intake. Fill your plate with vegetables and fruit so that 3/4 of the plate is a bright mix of colors.
- Meet Your Need for Proper Nutrients. When we are low in important nutrients, especially from the stress and diet of the holidays, our bodies crave more food in seeking those nutrients. We eat more and more processed junk foods, searching for nutrients that just aren’t there. We starve in the midst of plenty – overfed, undernourished, and never satisfied. Eat a nutrient-dense diet and supplement with a few key nutrients so your body feels energetic and satisfied.
Let us remember that true health is a CHOICE! Only YOU can make the decision to eat healthy and be healthy. Each of us has total control over what we decide to eat. Even during a holiday food extravaganza, we can still make intelligent, informed decisions to eat in a more healthful way. There is no need to punish ourselves with toxic food ingredients like hydrogenated oils, MSG, aspartame, GMOs, artificial food coloring, chemical additives and factory-raised meats. If we are going to celebrate abundance, why not celebrate with healthful food choices that enhance our long-term enjoyment of life instead of contributing to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity?