After all, between Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's Eve - not to mention the recently departed Thanksgiving turkey - this is probably the month when the largest amount of food is consumed per capita. And much of this food is of the richer variety. Cookies, candies, pies, and other sugary treats show up everywhere from holiday parties, to the office cafeteria, to the gifts piled under the tree. Turkey, duck, ham, and other rich meats grace our dining room tables, and side dishes packed with potatoes, yams, pasta, cream, butter, cheese, and other "guilty pleasures" are par for the course. Is it any wonder that we leave the holidays not quite fitting into last year's clothes?
Well, I'm here to tell you to stop feeling guilty! The holidays come around once a year, and it is perfectly fine to enjoy them. There is no need to put a damper on your enjoyment by chastising yourself for what you're eating - especially if you follow these three tips for delicious, healthy eating this holiday season.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you're probably familiar with my credo for healthy eating: "Eat what God made, and eat it the way He made it." Luckily, this can actually fairly easy during the holidays. The holiday season after all, is one of tradition, which means, many families who don't often prepare meals throughout the year will actually cook at home this time of year. Even this is almost always healthier than grabbing fast food on the go. But you can take it a step further, by making sure that you prepare the majority of the food yourself, without resorting to processed, boxed foods. For example, making cakes, brownies, cookies, or simple stuffing is almost as easy from scratch as it is from a box - and much healthier!
Avoid all of the preservatives and artificial ingredients, and prepare your own holiday meals this year. If this sounds like a lot of work, recruit some help! Got family and friends in town for the holidays? They'll most likely be happy to help prepare some of the holiday meals if you just ask. Cooking together can be a lot of fun, and is a great way to socialize and enjoy the company of folks you may not have seen in a while, all while preparing a delicious meal that you can all enjoy together and feel good about.
If you're used to cooking from scratch, but you want to make sure you're preparing good, healthy things for your loved ones this holiday season, the next step would be to choose only all-natural and/or organic ingredients. If you know how and where to shop for these items, they can be surprisingly affordable. Some people find the labels on things to be confusing, with all the different options for "natural," "free-range," "antibiotic-free," "organic," etc., and indeed it can be (see other blogs posts in this category for more help with that). But right now we're just talking about whole, naturally occurring foods. By asking yourself when shopping, "did God make this and/or all of the ingredients?" you will be choosing more healthy and nutritious items almost by default. It's an easy way to keep yourself on track when purchasing your list of Christmas dinner ingredients.
Tip #2: Moderation Is Key
This may be the most difficult tip for some people, as it definitely requires some self-control and discipline, but hey, we're all adults here, right? Let's get real and take responsibility for our own health and well-being. While whole, natural foods are certainly best for you in a nutritional sense, many holiday foods still contain a lot of calories. For example, while butter may be a great natural choice for cooking and baking (and of course one of the best tasting), eating a pound of it this week will still increase your waistline! Getting your calories from a clean source like organic butter or cream, grass-fed lamb, or naturally raised and cured ham, is certainly better than many of the alternatives. But if you consume 4,000 calories and don't burn them all off (which can be a very difficult thing to do), you're still going to gain weight.
So what is the answer? See Tip #1 above, and rather than resort to weird man-made concoctions like "buttery spread" made from chemically processed oils, "low-fat" versions of dips full of high-fructose corn syrup, or desserts made with man-made artificial sweeteners, just exercise some discipline and don't pig out (as my mom would say)! Make sure your holiday meal contains lots of vegetables, and include plenty of them on your plate. Eat vegetables (generally lower in calories) first, then move on to starchy and meaty items. Pace yourself, and listen to your body. Take a small helping of everything first, eat slowly, and then wait 10 minutes and see if you feel full before eating more. Not only will you eat fewer calories, but you may end up enjoying your food more - and even your time with your guests, as instead of feeling bloated and uncomfortable after dinner, you can actually pay attention to your company and not just want to go lie down!
Tip #3: Forgive Yourself & Give Thanks
In some cultures, it is thought that enjoying your food actually makes it healthier for you - and I am somewhat inclined to agree. Sometimes I wonder just how much of our dis-ease as a nation is due to the fact that we try to modify and change our food so much, rather than just enjoying it.... After all, God made us to enjoy the foods that He gave us to eat! He gave us taste buds for a reason. There is a reason why we can taste flavors from sweet to salty to fatty and everything in between - mostly so that we know what is good to eat.
This holiday season, instead of focusing so much on what you should not eat, why not look at your food from a positive point of view? Consider the many, many good foods that are available to you (Tip #1), try small portions of a wide variety of them (Tip #2), and focus on how much you enjoy them. Give thanks for all of the delicious foods that you eat this holiday and on a daily basis. Give thanks for the body that you are taking such good care of by feeding it delicious, nourishing foods. Give thanks for your sense of taste that allows you to enjoy them. And if you eat a few things that probably aren't so good for you, have the grace to give yourself a break. After all, it's also the season of forgiveness!
I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this post, and all of the others throughout the year! We will not be posting next week as I will be spending some time with my family in Arkansas, but be sure to stay tuned as we will be back in January with more news, tips, and resources on living a happy, healthy, and holistically balanced life.
Thanks for reading, and have a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy New Year!
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