Tips and Recipes To Keep You Healthy During The Holidays
The holiday season used to be a concentrated period in the last two weeks of December. Now, as soon as we hang up our Halloween costumes the Christmas lights are strung, the holiday shopping begins and the invitations roll in for holiday gatherings. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good celebration as much as anyone else, but between the indulgent meals, cocktails, parties, traveling and the financial pressure of gift-giving it can be challenging to stay healthy during the holidays.
A key part of staying healthy during the holidays is to support the immune system. When our immune systems are challenged and suppressed, we’re less likely to maintain our overall health. Most of the things we indulge in during holidays – chocolate, candy, processed foods, rich meals – are taxing for our bodies to process and hamper immune system function.
The immune system is mysterious to many people. It’s not like the liver or the heart or a specific organ that we pinpoint and describe. The immune system is more like a series of bits and pieces that work together to form a total body defense. Part of it is the glands in our neck/throat, armpits and crotch region, part of it is the lymphatic system that excretes wastes and runs side-by-side with veins that carry fresh oxygenated blood, a massive part is in the lowest bit of our small intestine and of course there is the part located in our bones where blood is made. The thing is, we need all of these bits and pieces to be nourished in order for the total system to do its job.
Unfortunately, there are many things we do during the holidays that kick this system while it’s down.
Immune System Abusers
- Too much food (and food that isn’t health-supportive)
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of sunlight
- Lack of exercise
For more in-depth details about supportin the immune system, you can check out this post about 5 Ways to Prevent Colds and Flus and my Top 10 Cold and Flu Remedies. You’ll learn all about how diet, stress and lack of sleep kick our immune system down.
STAY HEALTHY DURING THE HOLIDAYS
We’re all over the immune power right now as we slide on into the chaos of the holiday season. If we know that we’re going to be running a teensy bit wild health-wise, our best defence will always be preparedness.
There are a few super keys to ensuring health through holidays, and I want to make sure I have all of those bases covered for you. Today I’m focusing on the antidotes to the holiday season. If we know we’re going to splurge, how do we offset the indulgences?
1. Avoid Late Nights
The late nights are usually the toughest part of the holiday season because we’re sleeping (and eating) outside of our regular schedule. Take these measures to offset this:
- Load up on foods rich in healthy fats like organic nuts/seeds and their oils, organic ghee or coconut oil, and some cold water fish.
- Start high dosing on your vitamin C. You can take anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 mcg. Remember to take it throughout the day – as vitamin C is water soluble, you’ll pee out what you don’t absorb.
- Take some adaptogenic herbs like ashwaganda, rhodiola, maca and reishi.
2. Skip The Sugar Overload
This one is easy. Don’t do it! Be selective about the treats you indulge in and choose wisely. This goes for cakes, cookies and booze!
- Make some of your own tasty treats from scratch and use whole, natural sweetener options.
- Booze is optional, but if you are going to drink, stay away from the fancy cocktails and stick with red or white wine, or simple mixes.
- Drink lots and lots of water to help stay hydrated. Sugar dehydrates us and can leave us craving more sugar. If you’d like to make water special, infuse it with herbs or fruit.
3. Move That Body
Thanks to the late nights and sugar indulgences, your energy levels might drop, leading you to wimp out on your regular physical activity. Don’t let it happen! Keep up with your physical health goals by taking on a group challenge or partnering with someone who will keep you accountable and committed. This way, even if you do indulge in late nights and extra food, your body will stay strong and it will be that much easier to get back to your regular routine in the new year.
- Use yoga websites, online fitness classes, YouTube, a DVD series or simply go for a walk. Aim to commit to at least 30 minutes of movement a day, whether that happens in an airport or in your kitchen. Move and shake.
4. Keep That Gut Healthy
The core of our immune health starts in the gut. Make sure that in addition to supporting your adrenal glands through adaptogenic herbs and offsetting the effects of sugar with water, you’re also supporting the health of your digestive tract.
- Make fermented foods part of your everyday eating habits.
- Supplement with a good probiotic (they’ll be found in a health food store in the fridge section) and take them as directed until the bottle is done.
- Avoid glutenous foods that will cause further harm and imbalance in the gut.
5. Manage That Stress
Stress might be the greatest hinderance to your health of all. Find strategies to manage and process your stress. This will include:
- Getting plenty of rest and avoiding super late nights.
- Taking care not to overload on sugar.
- Exercising regularly.
- Maintaining health in the gut.
Taking care of your health through the holidays will help to bring down the stress levels associated with the holiday time.
6. Stick To A Routine
Don’t make the last six weeks of the year a no-holds barred bonanza where you forget all of the healthy habits you cultivated all year, like sleeping regularly, keeping digestion humming along, drinking clean water, exercising, meditating and breathing, practicing gratitude and of course, eating delicious and healthful food.
As much as you can, wake up, go to bed, eat, work and exercise at the same times each day. This can be tricky with holiday schedules, but do your best.
7. Cook and Eat From Scratch
You know I’m a big fan of cooking everything from scratch, whether we’re talking about bread or kombucha or salad. Fill your plate with plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, gluten-free whole grains, healthy fats, along with occasional organic animal products.
If your family is home together, why not cook together? The holidays are a great opportunity for you to spend time in the kitchen together having fun and learning new culinary skills, especially for the children in your home. If you want to have a treat – like chocolate or cake or strawberry licorice – make it yourself! That way, you’ll ensure you’re not consuming any preservatives or harmful ingredients.
For a healthier take on holiday food, check out these 10 Classic Holiday Recipes Reinvented. You can also play around with these 7 cold-fighting foods in your recipes.
8. Eat Mindfully
How we eat is equally important to what we eat. If we’re eating while stressed out, in the car, on the run, on the couch or not paying attention we’re more likely to overeat and feel terrible afterward.
Instead, cultivate mindful and conscious eating practices. Unhealthy eating patterns are often caused by tension and stress. When we experience stress or negative emotions, we lose energy. Unconsciously, we want to eat to replace that lost energy with food – especially comfort food. Simply noticing how we feel before we reach for that chocolate cake or third beer is the first step.
Take time with your meals and enjoy them at a table (the holidays are a perfect time to practice this!). Linger at the dinner table – not to eat more, but to spend more time chewing and savouring as opposed to gobbling. The more awareness we bring to what, where, when and why we are eating, the sooner great health will unfold before us.
9. Keep Good Company
The holidays are a tricky time when it comes to negotiating the relationships of those we spend this time of year with – especially in 2020 when we have fewer options. We can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends. Though for many, spending the holidays with family is a joyful and easy time. If that’s not your situation, however, it’s important that you carve out time to celebrate the goodness of life with those of your own choosing. Spending time alone, can also be the best company of all, sometimes.
Holiday Party Survival Guide
*You likely won’t be attending traditional family gatherings due to the current global circumstances; however, these tips can apply to small gatherings or small celebrations at home.*
Here are some ways you can navigate a holiday party:
- Drinking is optional! Cranberry and soda is delicious. You can also make your own mocktails.
- Eat a small, healthy snack before the party so you don’t arrive starving.
- Get a plate! Take assorted appetizers onto your plate instead of grazing and picking throughout the party.
- Bring a dish to a potluck that could serve as your entire healthy meal.
- Don’t be shy about asking what something is, or asking for yours to be plain.
- Keep to the lighter desserts – fruit and cookies, or small slices of the ones you want to try.
- Find someone to split a larger dessert with.
- Keep drinking water.
- Avoid the “But it’s the holidays” mentality – every action has a reaction and a result. Will your action produce the results you are after?
- Keep your hands washed, especially before eating, and away from the face as much as possible.
- Get as much rest as you can before the party. People who are sleep-deprived are more likely to make unhealthier choices.
HOLIDAY RECIPE INSPIRATION
A smooth, frothy and festive dairy-free beverage that’s a healthier alternative to sugar-laden eggnog.
- 1 cup almonds
- 4 cups water
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- honey or dates to sweeten
- Place all ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour through fine mesh strainer or nut sack.
- Store in mason jar for 3-4 days.
- Can be heated over stove for a warm delight!
You’ll want to have friends around when you bake this nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free gingerbread cake. Partially ’cause it’s nice to share, but also otherwise you’ll want to eat the whole thing.
- ¾ cup gluten-free brown rice flour
- ¾ cup gluten-free buckwheat flour
- ¼ cup sunflower seed meal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
- pinch of clove
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
- ⅓ cup applesauce
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup ghee or coconut oil
- 1 tbsp chia, ground and mixed with ¼ cup warm water
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Line cake pan with parchment or grease with ghee/oil and dust with flour.
- Mix together all dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl or blender, whisk/gently blend together the grated ginger, sugar, syrup, molasses, apple sauce, water vinegar and butter/oil.
- Mix wet into dry and add the chia paste.
- Pour into cake pan and smooth out with a spatula
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick, inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- 1¾ cups Gluten-Free Flour (I used 1 cup brown rice and ¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour)
- ¼ cup arrowroot starch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of sea salt
- ½ cup organic ghee or coconut oil
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- 1 egg or 1 serving chia paste
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger root
- ⅓ cup chopped crystallized ginger
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, starch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt.
- In a separate bowl, cream together the oil and sugar, and then mix in the egg, maple syrup, fresh ginger and crystallized ginger.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until thoroughly mixed (you may need to use your hands) and then set in the fridge for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 340.
- Using 2 Tbsp of dough, roll out your cookies in your hands and press flat on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat until all of the dough has been used up. You will need two cookie sheets or bake in two batches. If doing it in two batches, replace remaining batter in the fridge until you’re ready to bake.
- Bake for 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
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