Holiday Guide to Healthier Festive Feasts
The year 2020 has taken us on a challenging roller coaster ride that has affected our way of celebrating and socializing. Throwing parties, going out on dates, or just simple social acts like hugging friends and family members are now fraught with difficulty. Regardless of these challenges, the holiday season will not be canceled or postponed. We can find ways to manage our expectations and provide holiday enjoyment and comfort for ourselves and our loved ones.
Holiday celebrations do not have to be grandiose. But certainly, whatever way people choose to observe the holidays, food is almost always a key element. Plenty of generous, flavorful meals will grace dinner tables all over the world.
Once holiday eating begins, it can become easy for us to lose control of the healthier and more moderate lifestyle that we typically maintain. Be kind to yourself -- considering all the hurdles that we have been through this year, it’s okay to allow yourself to indulge a bit. But also recognize that you can enjoy this delightful season more healthily by mindfully selecting delectable foods that also provide your body with nutritional benefits. Below, you’ll find a few holiday healthy eating tips you can apply to ensure a safer and healthier break.
Eating Smart During the Holidays
In these unprecedented times of global pandemic, many people have felt motivated to take steps to strengthen their immune systems by eating better, and many have used the time of isolation to work out more in an effort to achieve their desired physique. However, during exceptional times like holidays, an upsurge of excitement happens, daily exercise habits are often interrupted, and people find themselves indulging and regressing to old habits, consuming traditional foods that aren’t the healthiest. But you don’t want your previous efforts to be entirely sabotaged, or to sink further into ill health if you’ve let yourself fall into bad habits, so setting forth proper holiday eating goals is a smart move.
Safety as a Topmost Priority in 2020
We ceaselessly hear these pandemic reminders: wash your hands, wear a mask and observe physical distancing. To be present in this season and many more to come is the greatest gift in itself, so keeping yourself and your loved ones safe should be your first priority. It is advisable not to hold big holiday eating parties, and to decline invitations to such events. Celebrating with only the people we already live with is one recommended strategy to help prevent the spread of the disease.
During a pandemic, being #TogetherApart goes a long way to help keep us safe from contracting the virus or spreading it to others. You can hold a virtual/online party to engage with friends and families that are miles away. Additionally, you can reduce the shopping, wrapping, and expense stresses associated with gift giving and focus on simpler forms of expressing affection and care. If gift-giving is one of your main love languages, you can still engage in the activity without compromising safety. There are creative ways to offer presents to the people you value during lockdown times. It doesn’t matter what forms our presents take, as it is the thoughtfulness of a gift that counts most for the majority of people.
Get One Step Ahead of Your Holiday Eating
Planning helps us set the right priorities. Apart from all the pandemic considerations, choosing and planning dishes to prepare does add to the mental baggage you are carrying, and certain festive foods are admittedly difficult and time-consuming to cook. But planning and actively preparing our own foods is an important ritual that binds families and produces feelings of self-reliance and empowerment. We feel better, safer, and more personally fulfilled and competent, knowing that we have actively participated in selecting ingredients and preparing our own food. And in general, meals planned and prepared by you will be much higher in health benefits than pre-made or take-out meals, as when we cook for ourselves we tend to prioritize the use of quality whole food ingredients.
Selecting easy-to-prepare holiday eating recipes in advance helps veer us away from canned, processed and premade foods with too much salt, and sugar. Include foods rich in zinc such as oyster, mussels, cashews, beef, and egg yolks. Magnesium-rich foods will also ease the stress brought by this year’s holiday. For magnesium enriched foods, you can choose legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains. Salmon and other fatty fishes as have omega-3 that can help stabilize your emotions.
For stress reduction, you can also incorporate fun activities that are not eating-related. This will not only improve your relationships in many cases, but can also save people from overeating. If snacks are necessary during periods of leisure activity, provide healthy ones that contain beneficial nutrients, like raw nuts and dried fruits, rather than empty-calorie choices like sugary baked treats or candies. Having health snacks on hand is a big key to achieving a healthy family holiday!
Perhaps the most important advice (but perhaps the least traditional) is to make space for lots of vegetables and fruits!
This may not be the initial set of food you look forward to whenever you think about the holidays. But now more than ever, healthy plant food benefits are required for strengthening your system. Loading your meals up with vegetables and fruits during the holiday season can greatly help your overall health. It is advisable to eat these first, before you begin to indulge in other, less healthy dishes. This is to ensure that you already have the nutrients that sustain your health stored in your body before you engorge your stomach with festive treat foods.
Produce that is helpful for your holiday health and brings festive colour to the plate includes citrus fruits and red bell peppers. These are rich in vitamin C that boosts your immune system. Intensely flavourful additions like fresh ginger, garlic and turmeric help make healthier soups, stews, stir-fries, and salad dressings. You may also want to include ingredients rich in probiotics, including both fermented and fresh foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, bananas, and even “unseasonal” choices such as watermelon (the kids will thank you!). In addition, you can reduce demands on your preparation time and ensure you have a “nutritious safety net” by carefully selecting actually healthy and raw “fast foods” like Nutes ready-made superfood smoothies that offer just the same health benefits as fruits, and veggies. You can serve such foods to family members and to yourself, for breakfast or while busy in the kitchen, in order to quickly flush your system with satisfying nutrients which curbs cravings and limits the likelihood that you’ll fall prey to the temptations of unhealthy foods.
When you eat, eat mindfully and slowly. Part of the point of holidays is for us to slow down and take the time to appreciate what we have. Mindful eating is intensely pleasurable, but it doesn’t happen reflexively -- we have to train ourselves to slow down and purposefully think about the experience of each bite, to consider the full flavours and textures of our foods, and feel the various sensations our body experiences while consuming food.
An after-meal walk can speed up the time for digestion. It also prevents heartburn and reflux symptoms. For holiday celebration activities, you can be as creative as you please. Find out what activities will spike excitement in the family while shaking off all the holiday calories. You can even put on those dancing shoes if you like! Dancing is a very safe and effective activity. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of dancing can burn even more calories than swimming, cycling, or running!
Limit your alcohol intake!
Most holiday eating is accompanied by alcoholic drinks. If you plan to take some alcoholic beverages, you may want to start with a low-calorie, non-alcoholic drink such as sparkling or plain water to first snuff out your thirst in order to reduce how quickly you consume the alcoholic drinks. You can also minimize your intake and stay hydrated by alternating an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water or Perrier. Make sure you do not drink on an empty stomach. Alcohol on an empty stomach introduces to your system a heavy empty calorie load that is also toxic and a strain on your lover, and this reduces the ability of your body to fight off illness. Overall, drink moderately. Try healthier substitutes for festive alcoholic beverages -- kombucha is gaining in popularity, and it is a perfect cocktail/soda substitute, a fizzy beverage with traces of alcohol but healthy as it’s made from fermented green tea infused with natural flavourings -- kombucha is good for enriching your gut flora! Look for lower sugar varieties.
Be kind to yourself
There is nothing wrong with being too worked up and excited to achieve a completely healthy holiday lifestyle. This is a time for some indulging. But the holiday season is also a time for relaxation and self care. When you have taken in more food than you intended to eat, no need to beat yourself up, because there are a myriad of ways to recover from holiday eating, and you can return to a better health fitness routine as soon as you are ready.
Believe that next year, the holidays will be brighter
This year’s holiday might not be the same as holidays past, but do your best to be an inspiration to others, especially any kids in your family, to remain hopeful. Have faith in better times that lie ahead, and be grateful for the goodness in life. Remember: this too shall pass!
Be Smart and Stay Healthy by Practicing Moderation
Festive and indulgent holiday eating, when done with consciousness and care, doesn’t need to be harmful to you. Practice some self-control, do some planning, and strive to remain cognizant that while indulging in more than what your system can comfortably digest should never be the norm, it is a forgivable exception. No matter the goodness of foods, excessive intake can bear some of the same negative effects as eating unhealthy foods. You will enjoy the festive feasting much more if you don’t suffer symptoms of discomfort related to overeating.
Remember that COVID-19 is not taking a holiday, so it is important to accept the restrictions that are preventing us from enjoying larger gatherings and social events. Smaller gatherings can be a great blessing in their own ways, as certain types of unhealthy holiday stress are reduced, and we can focus much more on the quality, and far less on the quantity, of our meals and relationships.