This time of year can be challenging for those of us who maintain a healthful, whole foods diet throughout the year. It’s not that we are necessarily tempted by chocolates pumped full of refined sugar, but sometimes it can be difficult to find something to eat at holiday gatherings or politely refuse the fruitcake pressed upon us by well-intentioned relatives. With a few tips and tricks at the ready, it’s doable to celebrate healthy holidays and feel vibrant throughout.
Here in Canada (where you’ll find the HQ of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition), we kick the holiday season off the second week of October during Canadian Thanksgiving – and the intensity only increases after Halloween.
Unless you decide to forgo the holidays altogether, the reality is you might be confronted with some awkward or less than ideal food situations. Here are some of our best suggestions about how to celebrate healthy holidays this year.
how to celebrate healthy holidays
Host Gatherings at Your Home for Healthy Holidays
The obvious way to avoid foods that you know don’t support your health is to offer to host the meal at your home. Of course, we realize this is not always the easiest option, especially since whole food cooking involves making many things from scratch. However, if you’re accustomed to healthy cooking and love doing so, hosting the meal on your own turf is a beautiful way to share delicious, nourishing food with the people you care about.
If you’re cooking for those who are wary of healthy food, no fear – their taste buds won’t be able to tell the difference if you:
- serve comfort food classics with a healthy twist
- employ loads of culinary nutrition swaps
- roast an organic free range turkey or chicken (learn how to do that in this video)
- try serving bowls of roasted carrot soup with a side of savoury butternut squash biscuits
- don’t forget the dairy-free chocolate for dessert!
More Holiday Themed Recipes
Offer An Honest, but Diplomatic Explanation for Your Food Choices at Gatherings
Photo: Gabriel Gurrola via Unsplash
Sharing food is one of the ways we all like to express love and appreciation. When others perceive that you are rejecting their food, or judging the way that they eat, it can feel difficult or hurtful.
It’s helpful to explain that you are working on your health and that means there are certain foods that disagree with you. If you’re attending a meal with close family and friends, it’s likely that they already know a lot about you and the way that you eat, so this news won’t come as a surprise.
When you’re with people you don’t know very well, explain your situation clearly and diplomatically, but never criticize or preach to them. Just as you’d like people to respect your eating style, you can’t force kale on people unless they are ready to receive it.
If you are with family or friends who refuse to accept your lifestyle and criticize you for your ‘health nut’ ways, remember that their behaviour isn’t about you – it’s about them so try not to take their judgement or teasing personally. Don’t eat anything you don’t want to in order to diffuse a situation or make someone else feel better. If you feel awful or have to run to the toilet with diarrhea, that’s not actually helping anyone at all!
Don’t show up at an aunt’s house and demand special treatment without warning. Call ahead and explain any dietary restrictions you have to your host and propose solutions you have to handle them. For example, you could offer to bring an entrée or dessert, or ask if elements such as dressings or sauces could be left on the side for guests to add to their own plates.
Bring a Delicious Dish to Share
Don’t isolate yourself with a specially prepared meal. Bring a huge casserole dish to share the healthy goodness with everyone else. For example, this shepherd’s pie is always a crowd-pleaser, and it’s hearty enough to serve as your entrée and a side for everyone else. It’s also difficult to turn down mashed sweet potatoes, or a plate of cookies.
Discover more about how to create a healthy potluck dish here.
Nourish Yourself Well During Non-Holiday Meals
While it may seem like the holiday season is rolling 24/7, there are plenty of opportunities aside from festivities where you can focus on fueling yourself with foods you know support your health.
- Dark leafy greens
- Winter squashes
- Root vegetables
- Nourishing fats and oils like coconut oil and ghee
- Plant-based and animal-based quality proteins
- Nut and seed butters
- Nut and seed milks (p.s. have you tried oat milk yet?)
- Herbal teas
- Sea vegetables
- Garlic and onions
- Cacao (yes, chocolate!)
- Fermented foods
It may help to do some meal prep and menu planning so you have nutritious foods at the ready during those non-holiday meals.
Add Movement to Your Day
Sure, it’s cozy to hunker down wrapped in blankets in front of a fire, yet we still want to keep that circulation flowing. Movement during our healthy holidays doesn’t need to be excessive or rigorous – a short walk, light stretching, or even some seated exercises can be a big help.
Don’t Forget to Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is key to health throughout the year and sometimes we don’t think about this as much during the cooler months or holiday season. Drink water throughout the day, setting a timer on your phone or whatever else you need as a reminder. Other hydrating drinks to help you have healthy holidays include:
- Infused waters
- Nut/seed milks (flavoured ones are nice too)
- Green juice
- Dairy-free elixirs
Try Not to Stress Too Much
Try not to agonize about healthy holidays – stress inhibits digestion and isn’t helpful to our overall health. Do the best that you can, and maintain a positive attitude throughout your holiday meals. The point of this time of year is to relax with your family so don’t make it all about the food, and focus on other ways to enjoy the company of your loved ones.
Tell us what you think! How do you handle the holidays around your house?