Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can You Really Eat Healthy During the Holidays?

I certainly don't think I need to lecture anyone on eating healthy during the holidays, but if you're like me, you may need a gentle reminder periodically and some ideas that will prevent your body from groaning too seriously on January 2nd!

Truthfully, I am not very good at this because I adore the season and all the goodies that come with it... peppermint mocha lattes, my dear friend Jody's outstanding homemade and very professional chocolate goodies she sends each year, pepparkakor to die for...

And then there's all the parties and events! One could quickly pack on the pounds, run down the immune system, and end up sick or at the very least, find yourself avoiding the old work out routine because your body is just too sluggish from junk!

I'm really not about to tell you to stop eating all that stuff! While Advent is a time of personal reflection and preparation of one's heart for the coming of the Lord, it's also a time of anticipation and excitement... a time of joy and wonder at God's goodness to mankind! It's a time to celebrate and rejoice! And food is a big part of the celebration. In fact, God often refers to food when a feast or celebration is at hand. Remember... when we are gathered to be with the Lord, in time we will celebrate with Him at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb! (No one will be counting calories at that meal!)

Then what am I attempting to do? Encourage you! Spark a conversation for ideas to keep us from going over board. If I eat every single thing that I really want, I'll be sick in a matter of days. But if I will pick and choose, add in some of the good stuff, show just a teeny, tiny bit of restraint, I can enjoy the season, eat most of what I want, and still recover easily after the holidays.

Healthy Holiday Choices

Eat lots of fruit and nuts! Growing up I always got an orange, maybe an apple, and always some nuts in my stocking. And I was always a bit disappointed. Of course I got some great things, too, but kids in today's culture don't understand the value of an orange or nut because we can have them all year long, and as many as we want. But years ago, children in certain parts of the world rarely saw these treats. Because citrus is a winter crop and nuts have just been harvested, they were and are readily available this time of year and they taste their BEST right now.

Most years I give citrus fruit to a few of my long distance family or friends because it's easy to have shipped directly and is a nice change from all those sucrose sweets. Fructose tastes just as sweet when it's fresh and in season, but it's so much better for you! I always send my husband a big box of South Texas ruby red grapefruit as well (and then I eat half of it!!). It's a great way to start the day or eat as a snack when you start to hanker for some sugary treat. I highly recommend Crocket Farms, whom I've used for years and never been disappointed. Many may feel shipped fruit is too expensive, but just add up what you spend making all those cookies and sugary treats and I dare say it's close to an even trade!

Enjoy dehydrated foods! While fresh foods are always the best choice, dehydrated is nothing to sneeze at. Especially when compared to a cookie! Homemade veggie chips or dried fruits make for  quick and easy treat. Make a big batch and keep it in view. In fact, try displaying it like you would Christmas candy in a big glass jar and watch it disappear!

Make plenty of vegetable soups!  You can really pack in the nutrients with a vegetable soup, keep yourself warm, and fill your stomach at the same time (and kids will rarely turn their nose up at it). Often you can add nutrient dense foods such as kale and chard when making a soup to boost the benefits as well. Throughout the fall, I make a soup for dinner on chilly nights and usually I will double the recipe and freeze half for later. That way I have a quick meal during the holiday rush that's easy to reheat and healthy as well. A quick fresh salad as a side and you're got some raw vegetable nutrients to compliment it.

Roast a tray of vegetables! Root vegetables are in season right now and you can really make the family happy if you chop some up, toss them with a little olive oil and sea salt, then roast on 400 - 450 degrees in a shallow tray. (Keep the layer thin if you don't want them to be soft, but a bit crisper). Halfway through, toss on the tray. Afterward, I often toss the vegetables with a bit of red wine vinegar, but not always. It adds a touch of sweetness without over powering the flavor if you don't add too much.

Stock the refrigerator and pantry with whole snack foods! Vegetable sticks pre-cut and in containers, plain yogurt (either for dipping the vegetables in or served separately with honey, fruit, and granola), whole grain breads, and hummus with whole wheat crackers are just a few things I try to keep on hand during the holidays. Often we eat these snacks as a light lunch during this season because we've eaten so much food during the week that no one wants anything big or heavy. Then we try to eat a good dinner (or visa versa).

Practice Moderation! Let's face it... there's just no way getting around the fact that we must show a little restraint when indulging on the sweet treats. It's still called "self-control", which I agree is easier to write in this blog than to practice! If you're too tempted to eat the entire box of cookies your neighbor just brought over, try freezing half. Or take it to an event to share. I often freeze cookies if several of these lovely gifts arrive all at once and we need to spread them out.

And when it comes to moderation, try narrowing down all the sweets you bake at home. It's easy to get into the "tradition" of making it ALL, but if you pick only one or two favorite things to bake each holiday season, you won't burn yourself out in the kitchen and the items you DO make will be much more special and memorable. (And did I mention you might consume less calories?)

Eat only the best! I've started doing this and it's a big calorie saver! Skip the store bought cookies at the parties and select only a couple of the very best treats being offered. When lots of food gifts arrive at your door, only eat the one's you really enjoy and share the rest instead. I'd rather have one really delicious dessert than two that are just so-so. And in doing so, I figure I save myself from half of the calories.

Chew slowly! Whether it's the healthy meal you're eating or the delicious dessert, chew slowly and savor what ever it is you're eating. You'll enjoy the food more, fill up with less, and save your digestive system from working so hard.

By the way, just in case it's not clear... my goal during the holidays is not to loose weight, but rather it IS my goal not to add to it! January will come around soon enough, when we all look at the scales and think about the extra pounds we added the previous year and then calculate how many we think we can take off. Need I say more?

Pass the oranges, please.

What's your best tip for eating healthy or favorite food that's nutritious during holiday season?


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