How to Navigate the Holiday Seasons While Staying Healthy
Successfully getting through the holidays requires more than just knowing what healthy food looks like, it is the mindfulness and establishing a behavior change when at social events and food gatherings. Slow down with eating, savor your food, enjoy the moment of the holiday events and not just focusing on the food.
- Breathe between bites of food
- Pay attention to physical hunger cues vs emotional eating or mindless eating
- Set your fork down in between eating
- Use a smaller appetizer plate, you can always grab seconds but don’t to overload a large dinner plate
- Bake holiday treats year round not “last chance eating” and overeating a “one time food”
- Eat what you love, leave what you like
- Alternate your bubbly cocktails w/ sparkling water
- Be a snack smuggler – keep appetite in check and nourish your body rather than letting blood sugar drop and grabbing fast food
Holidays are much more than 100% food. Consider all the other aspects that make the holidays special and unique and go into the various events emphasizing those factors and not just thinking about food and what you will eat. Challenge yourself to do two non food related tasks before starting in on food.
- Go to social gatherings to gather, not to eat
- Keep plate at table and socialize without a plate in your hand (prevents mindless eating)
- Hang out with family and friends in a living room or alternative space instead of chatting around food
- Eat mindfully = three bites and goodnight
- Give yourself permission to enjoy your indulgences guilt free
10 Healthy Cooking Alternatives
- Gravy — Refrigerate the gravy to harden fat. Skim the fat off. This will save a whopping 56 g of fat per cup.
- Mashed potatoes – swap out for cauliflower
- Stuffing — Use less bread and add more onions, garlic, celery, and vegetables. Add fruits such as cranberries, apples or pears.
- Sweet potatoes – add in other vegetables for more color & nutrients such as butternut squash, beets, brussel sprouts
- Green bean casserole – use a skim milk with Greek yogurt for a creamy, but lower calorie alternative
- Turkey – Enjoy delicious, roasted turkey breast without the skin and save 11 g of saturated fat per 3 oz serving
- Ham – opt for nitrite free ham and keep your portion in check to reduce excess sodium
- Pumpkin pie – substitute with plain Greek yogurt and flaxseed = increased protein and 100 calories less per slice
- Cherry pie – use fresh fruit instead of “pie filling” and for the crust – whole wheat flour + ground flaxseed
- Cookies – use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil
GARLIC MASHED CAULIFLOWER
- 1 cauliflower whole head, separated into florets
- 1 garlic whole bulb
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons thyme fresh chopped
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice about 1/4″ from the head of garlic and drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves. Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 40-50 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle it.
- Meanwhile, set a vegetable steamer into a pot or saucepan with a lid. Add an inch of water to the pot and fill the steamer basket with the cauliflower florets. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Cook cauliflower until very tender (so that when you pierce it with a knife it goes in and comes out easily without catching), about 10 minutes.
- Transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Squeeze the individual cloves of roasted garlic into the cauliflower. Add the thyme and secure the lid on the food processor. Pulse the cauliflower mixture until there are no lumps and it’s smooth like mashed potatoes. This may take a few minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
APPLE AND SQUASH STUFFING
- 4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cups Gala apples, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Optional – 4 slices pancetta, about 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) thick, diced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 8 cups cubed stale bread loaf without the crust
- 3 cups chicken or beef broth
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- Salt and pepper
Butter a large 33 x 23-cm (13 x 9-inch) baking dish or with a capacity of at least 12 cups.
In a large and deep non-stick skillet or a large saucepan, sauté the squash, onions, celery, apples, and garlic in half the oil for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl.
In the same skillet, brown the ground meat (and pancetta if using) in the remaining oil. Add the mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over the vegetables and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and spoon into the baking dish. Bake the stuffing in the oven during the last 30 minutes of cooking the turkey, on the bottom rack. While the turkey is resting, increase the oven’s temperature to 350 °F and bake the stuffing for another 30 minutes or until it is firm and golden brown.
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
- 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- mushroom sauce (see below)
- crispy onion topping (see below)
CRISPY ONION TOPPING INGREDIENTS:
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter, divided
- 1 medium onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
MUSHROOM SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
- 2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 8 ounces white button or baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (or cornstarch, if gluten-free)
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (not packed)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
TO MAKE THE CASSEROLE:
Begin by preparing the onion topping. Then make the mushroom sauce.
While those are cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees and bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and boil for 3-5 minutes, or until they reach your desired level of doneness. (I like mine cooked but still slightly crispy.) Drain the green beans, then transfer them to the bowl of ice water and stir them in. This will stop them from cooking more.
When the mushroom sauce is ready, transfer the green beans into the pan with the sauce and toss until combined. Pour the green bean mixture into a baking dish that has been greased with cooking spray. Then sprinkle the onion topping evenly on top. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm.
TO MAKE THE CRISPY ONION TOPPING:
Heat half of the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until melted. (Or if using olive oil, heat until it is shimmering.) Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until they are soft and starting to brown around the edges. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a separate mixing bowl.
Add the remaining half tablespoon of butter (or oil) to the pan and heat until melted. Add in the Panko breadcrumbs and stir until combined. Cook, stirring once every 30 seconds or so, for about 3-5 minutes until the Panko is toasted and lightly golden. Remove from heat and transfer the Panko to the bowl with the onions. Stir in the Parmesan and salt, and toss the mixture until combined. Set aside.
TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM SAUCE:
In the same saute pan that you used to cook the onion and Panko, heat butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until melted. (Or if using olive oil, heat until it is shimmering.) Add mushrooms and saute for 3-5 minutes until they are soft and cooked, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine. Saute for an additional minute to cook the flour, stirring occasionally.
Slowly add chicken broth, whisking to combine until smooth. Whisk in milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let cook for an additional minute until thickened, then stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese is melted. Reduce heat to low until the sauce is ready to be tossed with the green beans.
(*If the sauce seems too thick, you can add in an extra 1/2 cup of milk. If the sauce is too thin, you can add in an extra 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.)
HEALTHIER PUMPKIN PIE
- 1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
- 1 (13.5oz) can full-fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 2 tbsp ground flax
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
- pinch pure stevia, or 2 tbsp extra brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400°F. Blend all ingredients together until smooth, then pour into a prepared pie crust (such as the recipe below) in a 10-inch round pan. Bake 27 minutes (it will still be underdone after this time, which is okay!), let it cool, then refrigerate at least 5 hours uncovered for the pie to thicken and “set.” Note: Feel free to experiment with other milks, I can’t vouch for the results but that is an option.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup xylitol or sugar of choice
1/2 cup avocado oil or coconut oil
2-4 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 200°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add oil and stir. Add water as needed until it just sticks together but is not gummy. Press evenly into a 10-inch pie pan. Put the crust in the oven and immediately increase the temperature to 350°F. (The crust will rise, so either use pie weights during baking or just press the pie crust back down afterwards.) Bake 15 minutes. Let cool.
- 1 cup + 6 tbsp white whole wheat flour
- ¾ tsp cornstarch
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 tsp vanilla crème stevia
- To prepare the cookies, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in the molasses and vanilla crème stevia. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap, and shape into a 1”-tall rectangle. Cover the top with another large sheet of plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Leaving the cookie dough between the sheets of plastic wrap, roll it out until ⅛” thick. Lightly flour your cookie cutter, and press it into the dough, making sure each shape lies as close to its neighbors as possible to minimize unused dough. Peel the unused dough away from the shapes, and place them onto the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the unused dough, and repeat.
- Bake the cut out cookie dough at 325°F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
SUGAR COOKIES (Grain-free, gluten free and refined sugar free!)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- optional: food coloring
- 2 cups blanched almond flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch salt
For the Icing
- 2 cups organic powdered sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 2-3 drops pink/red food coloring
- Edible Glitter
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together egg, almond extract, and honey. Then, add in melted coconut oil and whisk again.
- Slowly add dry ingredients to wet until your dough is formed. Use a wooden spoon at first and then switch to using your hands. The dough may seem crumbly at first, but continue to knead dough together until it forms a ball.
- At this point, you can add your food coloring. We suggest starting off with just a few drops and kneading the food coloring into the dough. You can also make multiple colors of dough by separating in half or thirds.
- Create a ball with your dough and wrap with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Once the dough has cooled. Remove from fridge and sprinkle coconut flour onto a hard, cool surface as well as your rolling pin. Then, use rolling pin to roll out the dough so that it’s around 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch thick. If it’s sticking, sprinkle on some more coconut flour.
- Use small/medium cookie cutters to create sugar cookie cut outs. Place shapes onto your parchment-lined baking sheet. Don’t worry about spacing too much, the cookies will not expand that much.
- Bake at 350ºF for 6-8 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. They cook fast, so be careful!
- Immediately remove from hot pan and place on cookie rack. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting.
- For the icing: add water to powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time and mix. Add enough water, until you’ve reached your desired thickness. If you want to color your frosting, add a few drops of whatever color you desire. Then, transfer into a piping bag (or plastic bag) and frost away!
- Frost cookies with icing and then decorate with sprinkles and edible glitter.