Now that we’ve shared 8 ways you can stay healthy through the holidays, we wanted to share a few tips regarding healthy cooking and food choices during the holidays. Most of the foods we love to enjoy between Thanksgiving and Christmas are naturally healthy, but become unhealthy during the cooking process.
Many don’t realize that their tastes have evolved to crave salty and sugary foods – meaning foods taste bland without it. This isn’t necessarily your fault…whether we’re at the grocery store or a restaurant, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid added salts and sugars, artificial ingredients and preservatives. The good news is, there are many more natural ways to flavor our foods, and after a few weeks of avoiding added salts and sugars, our tastebuds can reset.
The ultimate goal is not to “diet” but to find a way of eating that is healthy, enjoyable, and easy to maintain in everyday life (even during the holidays)! Believe it or not, this CAN include chocolate and wine!
Holiday Favorites & Healthy Alternatives
There are countless ways to prepare a holiday turkey – some smother their bird in mayonnaise before putting it in the oven! To start, choose a natural turkey that indicates no artificial ingredients, coloring, or preservatives have been added. Then, season your natural turkey with olive oil and fresh herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme.
Stuffing can be reasonably healthy, when you avoid adding unhealthy ingredients like excess butter, salt and fat-heavy meats like bacon or sausage. Keep in mind, holiday foods like stuffing and mashed potatoes are carb and calorie heavy, so you’ll want to plan some kind of physical activity after your meal. Take your dog for a 20-30 minute walk after dinner and invite your family.
This one is easy…avoid canned cranberry sauce and make your own from scratch! Canned foods often contain preservatives and added sugars, artificial coloring, preservatives and salts. By making your own, you’ll get the full cranberry flavor and have control over what is (or isn’t) added.
Great options for natural sweeteners include honey, agave, natural maple syrup, and vanilla (our bodies use these sugars more efficiently).
The way we tend to enjoy sweet potatoes during the holidays is with heaps of butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. We get it, it’s amazing! But, sweet potatoes are sweet enough without the added sugar and fat. Roast your sweet potatoes with sesame oil & herbs, then blend with a little coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla. If you must have butter on your potatoes, try a plant-based alternative like avocado-oil butter.
Creamy Butternut Potatoes: For an alternative, roast sweet potatoes and butternut squash in cubes, then mash with coconut milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Garnish with pecans.
Green Bean Casserole:
The naughty part of green bean casserole comes from the cream of mushroom soup and fried onion strings on top. There’s not much getting around this one. Instead, try this delicious and nutritious alternative…
Roasted Seasoned Vegetables: Roast vegetables like Green Beans, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, and Zucchini with Avocado Oil and herbs like Rosemary, Cumin, Coriander, Cardamom, Garlic. *Toss cut veggies in oil and arrowroot powder or corn starch before roasting for gluten-free veggie fries.
Simply put, Apple Cider is like drinking a glass of sugar. Between the apples, which are high in natural sugars, and the added sugar used to make the drink less sour, sipping on this hot treat should be viewed more as a dessert than a beverage. Be aware of how much sugar you are consuming during the holidays. Foods and beverages that aren’t made from scratch are more likely to be over-saturated with salt and sugar. Make your food choices carefully so you’re not over-doing it with sugary drinks, sides, and desserts.
It’s hard to avoid the unhealthiness of the beloved pecan pie, but healthy eating is all about balance. Pecan pie is it is LOADED with sugar and fat, so consider controlling portion sizes with with mini-pies or getting your fix three bites and a scoop of organic, all-natural vanilla ice cream on top with a hot cup of coffee. Mmmmmm! For a natural and delicious alternative, try this plant-based pecan desert…
Honey Pecan Nice-Cream: Blend in a food processor, frozen bananas and softened dates (1 to 1 ratio), a dash of vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Spoon into a bowl and top with crushed pecans and honey drizzle.