Healthy Holiday Living

November 24, 2020
Person passing a gravy boat during a Thanksgiving meal.

Written by: Caroline Hitchner, Mackensie Miller, Audrey Calianos, Anna Brown, Mary Grace Gilkey

The holidays are filled with family, friends, and great food! Some classic holiday food items, however, can be full of unhealthy ingredients. Thankfully, oftentimes these recipes are able to be modified into a healthier rendition without sacrificing flavor or tradition! The most common modifications target the big three: fat, sodium, and sugar. When it comes to fat, try cooking with unsaturated fats like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or avocado oil instead of saturated fats like butter, cream, cheese, or animal fat from meat. Saturated fats raise cholesterol and can clog your blood vessels, which contributes to heart disease. Sodium is another main ingredient of a lot of unhealthy foods. Too much sodium can raise your blood pressure. It comes from pre-packaged food items like canned or boxed goods, or just adding salt to food. Try to buy fresh foods, opt for low-sodium cans at the stores, and limit the amount of salt added while cooking or at the table. Lastly, sugar is the major culprit of the holiday dessert scene. When baking, use natural sugars like honey, pure maple syrup, or agave. Natural sugars are broken down slower in the body, meaning they don’t cause as high of a blood sugar spike compared to refined sugar.

Want an easy way to change up your salad... try making your own dressings! Making your own salad dressing is a great and healthy way to add flavor. Sometimes we overload our salads with store bought dressing, and we don't think about what is actually in the dressing. Store bought dressings may have high concentrations of sugar or unhealthy fats. As mentioned previously, a diet high in unhealthy (saturated) fats can increase our risk of developing heart disease because these fats easily build up in arteries. If you make your own salad dressings you know exactly what goes into them and can tailor them to suit your taste preferences and health needs. I have provided 2 recipes that both contain olive oil. Olive oil is a healthy fat and is also known as a monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated (omega -3) and polyunsaturated fats (omega-6) are healthy fats found in foods like olive and avocado oil, nuts, seeds, and fish. These fats help our bodies to absorb vitamins, make hormones, and keep our cells healthy. So if you are looking for a way to boost your salad's flavor and nutrition, try making your own dressing!

Have you ever considered following a vegetarian or vegan diet, but were worried about missing out on your favorite holiday foods? Or are you simply looking to cut back on your meat consumption this holiday season? Well there are many easy ways to include plant-based protein sources into your traditional holiday recipes while also gaining plenty of health benefits! Dishes around the holidays are often made with animal-based ingredients such as meat or dairy that are high in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. If you are looking for some “clean eating” tips for the holiday season then consider incorporating more plant-based sources of protein to your meals, such as lentils, beans, nuts and seeds! Plant-based sources of protein are not only low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, but they are excellent sources of fiber, heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Consider adding cooked lentils to your gravy, sprinkling pumpkins seeds or chickpeas on your fall salad, or make quinoa stuffed squash as a side dish...the ideas are endless!

Holidays are usually a time full of fun and food! It is quite easy to overeat with the seemingly endless amounts of side dishes and entrees that are made. This holiday season, we want to share some principles of Intuitive Eating, which embodies mindful eating practices. One of these mindful eating practices is listening to your fullness cues. When your body is telling you that you are full, listen to your body even if your plate still has food on it! You can always save the leftovers from your plate for a later time. Overeating can bring feelings of lethargy, and that is never fun. To combat overeating, focus on smaller portion sizes. If you want to try different side dishes, entree options, or desserts, try portioning out smaller amounts so that way you can still satisfy your want for the food without overdoing it. And of course if you still feel hungry, allow yourself to eat! In conclusion, listening to your fullness cues and focusing on smaller portion sizes of foods can lead to a healthier eating style over the holidays!