Healthy Living Blog

Cooking for the Holidays

The holiday season is a time to give thanks, spread joy, and create memories. For many people, that means connecting with loved ones around the dinner table, mingling with coworkers at parties, or creating kitchen traditions with their children. Whatever form of celebration the holiday season brings you, it is likely to be accompanied by decadent foods.

Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holiday Season

The key to maintaining good health is consistency. If you do choose to indulge, strive to take simple steps to get back on track each day. While a few holiday treats won’t hurt you in the long run, the temptation to stray from your typical, wholesome eating habits may bring about short-term added stress.

You can combat food anxiety by taking measures to support all areas of your health during the holiday season. After all, well-being is about more than what a person chooses to eat. By incorporating the following tips, you can set yourself up for success in the weeks of festivities ahead.

  • Stay hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of water. People often confuse thirst with hunger cues. By hydrating properly, you can help improve body and brain function, mood, and sleep quality.
  • Get plenty of rest: The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that getting adequate sleep is crucial for cognitive functioning. It can be easy to overextend yourself during the holiday season, so make sure you take the time to recharge.
  • Engage in physical activity: An article from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) reviews how movement not only improves physical health but can also help instantly boost your mood. Enjoy activities with loved ones and create a new family tradition, like taking after-dinner walks or participating in a community run together.
  • Don’t skip meals: Eating nutritious, well-rounded meals can help reduce cravings and balance your blood sugar. When a person misses a meal, it can increase their chances of overeating or making poor food choices.
  • Prepare: Create your holiday menu ahead of time and stick to it. Planning your meal in advance can give you plenty of time to brainstorm healthy recipe substitutes.
  • Focus on homemade foods over processed goods: You can significantly reduce sugar and calorie consumption by opting for homemade versions of the holiday foods you love. Research shows that processed foods are linked to higher rates of long-term metabolic health concerns.

Quick & Easy Recipes

Cooking healthy, delicious meals doesn’t have to be complicated. By adding extra vegetables and making a few easy ingredient swaps, you can be on your way to maintaining healthy habits during the holiday season. So when planning your next celebratory meal, consider the following tips:

Make it colorful:
 By incorporating extra vegetables, you not only increase the dish’s nutritional value, but the variation in color can make for an aesthetically pleasing meal presentation.

  • Include chopped raw veggies, or crudité, to serve alongside dips and appetizers.
  • Top dishes with a variety of freshly chopped herbs, like parsley, cilantro, thyme, or basil, for extra vitamins and minerals.
  • Sauté bell pepper and onion to add to sauces to boost nutrients.

Incorporate texture: You can add crunch to your dishes with chopped nuts that offer macronutrient and micronutrient value. There are various healthy nut options to choose from, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios.

Get creative with carbohydrate substitutes: You can swap refined carbohydrates with vegetables and other wholesome ingredients to reap the benefits of added nutrients.

  • Use sautéed spiralized vegetables or roasted spaghetti squash in place of noodles.
  • Incorporate riced cauliflower or broccoli instead of refined rice.
  • Steam and mash cauliflower in lieu of mashed potatoes.
  • Trade processed breadcrumbs for almond meals.

Test out healthier versions of the desserts you love: You can decrease the amount of sugar in homemade desserts with creative alternatives.

  • Instead of butter, use mashed bananas or applesauce.
  • Trade granulated sugar for maple syrup, local honey, or coconut sugar.
  • Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
  • Consider alternative flours, like almond, oat, or sprouted options, instead of refined flours.

Focus on quality: Using responsibly sourced ingredients can help ensure that you consume nutrient-dense foods. These items typically have higher vitamin and mineral counts due to the nature of sustainable farming practices.

  • Choose grass-fed beef, humanely raised poultry, pasture-raised eggs, and wild-caught fish when available.
  • Select quality extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil over refined oils like vegetable oil and peanut oil.

Avoid Feelings of Guilt

The holiday season is fleeting and meant to be a time of togetherness. So if you indulge in unhealthy foods, try not to dwell on it. Instead, begin each day with a fresh mentality and enjoy quality time with loved ones.

We invite all residential program participants to join us for our “Cooking for the Holidays” workshop on December 11-18. The event will be led by chef John Beverly, who will demonstrate helpful holiday cooking techniques and guide participants through simple, healthy substitutes. You can sign up by reaching out to our admissions team today.

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